“Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable forhumanity.”
if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos executive you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it’s also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).
LET US THINK OF THE CRIME OF TERRACIDE – SOMETHING DESCRIBED RIGHT HERE – TERRARISM BY TERRARISTS!
PRESIDENT OBAMA – PLEASE NOTE THIS!
The Biggest Criminal Enterprise in History Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch Engelhardt writes: “In the case of the terrarists – and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell – you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren.”
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
23 May 13
e have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be “terracide” from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.
The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.
In the case of the terrarists — and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitablecorporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell — you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.
It wasn’t that complicated. In recent years, the companies they run have been extracting fossil fuels from the Earth in ever more frenetic and ingenious ways. The burning of those fossil fuels, in turn, has put record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Only this month, the CO2 level reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. A consensus of scientists has long concluded that the process was warming the world and that, if the average planetary temperature rose more than two degrees Celsius, all sorts of dangers could ensue, including seas rising high enough to inundate coastal cities, increasingly intense heat waves, droughts, floods, ever more extreme storm systems, and so on.
How to Make Staggering Amounts of Money and Do In the Planet:
None of this was exactly a mystery. It’s in the scientific literature. NASA scientist James Hansen first publicized the reality of global warming to Congress in 1988. It took a while — thanks in part to the terrarists — but the news of what was happening increasingly made it into the mainstream. Anybody could learn about it.
Those who run the giant energy corporations knew perfectly well what was going on and could, of course, have read about it in the papers like therest of us. And what did they do? They put their money into fundingthink tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing “doubts” about the science (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promoted what came to be known as climate denialism. Then they sent their agents and lobbyists and money into the political system to ensure that their plundering ways would not be interfered with. And in the meantime, they redoubled their efforts to get ever tougher and sometimes “dirtier” energy out of the ground in ever tougher and dirtier ways.
The peak oil people hadn’t been wrong when they suggested years ago that we would soon hit a limit in oil production from which decline would follow. The problem was that they were focused on traditional or “conventional” liquid oil reserves obtained from large reservoirs in easy-to-reach locations on land or near to shore. Since then, the big energy companies have invested a remarkable amount of time, money, and (if I can use that word) energy in the development of techniques that would allow them to recover previously unrecoverable reserves (sometimes by processes that themselves burn striking amounts of fossil fuels): fracking, deep-water drilling, and tar-sands production, among others.
They also began to go after huge deposits of what energy expert Michael Klare calls “extreme” or “tough” energy — oil and natural gas that can only be acquired through the application of extreme force or that requires extensive chemical treatment to be usable as a fuel. In many cases, moreover, the supplies being acquired like heavy oil and tar sands are more carbon-rich than other fuels and emit more greenhouse gases when consumed. These companies have even begun using climate change itself — in the form of a melting Arctic — to exploit enormous and previously unreachable energy supplies. With the imprimatur of the Obama administration, Royal Dutch Shell, for example, has been preparing to test out possible drilling techniques in the treacherous waters off Alaska.
Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity.
Their prior knowledge of the damage they are doing is what should make this a criminal activity. And there are corporate precedents for this, even if on a smaller scale. The lead industry, the asbestos industry, and the tobacco companies all knew the dangers of their products, made efforts to suppress the information or instill doubt about it even as they promoted the glories of what they made, and went right on producing and selling while others suffered and died.
And here’s another similarity: with all three industries, the negative results conveniently arrived years, sometimes decades, after exposure and so were hard to connect to it. Each of these industries knew that the relationship existed. Each used that time-disconnect as protection. One difference: if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos exec, you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it’s also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).
If Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 plane hijackings or the Tsarnaev brothers’ homemade bombs constitute terror attacks, why shouldn’t what the energy companies are doing fall into a similar category (even if on a scale that leaves those events in the dust)?
And if so, then where is the national security state when we really need it?
Shouldn’t its job be to safeguard us from terrarists and terracide as well as terrorists and their destructive plots?
The Alternatives That Weren’t: It didn’t have to be this way. PLEASE READ ON -
On July 15, 1979, at a time when gas lines, sometimes blocks long, were a disturbing fixture of American life, President Jimmy Carter spoke directly to the American people on television for 32 minutes, calling for a concerted effort to end the country’s oil dependence on the Middle East. “To give us energy security,” he announced,
“I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel — from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun… Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”
It’s true that, at a time when the science of climate change was in its infancy, Carter wouldn’t have known about the possibility of an overheating world, and his vision of “alternative energy” wasn’t exactly a fossil-fuel-free one. Even then, shades of today or possibly tomorrow, he was talking about having “more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias.” Still, it was a remarkably forward-looking speech.
Had we invested massively in alternative energy R&D back then, who knows where we might be today? Instead, the media dubbed it the “malaise speech,” though the president never actually used that word, speaking instead of an American “crisis of confidence.” While the initial public reaction seemed positive, it didn’t last long. In the end, the president’s energy proposals were essentially laughed out of the room and ignored for decades.
As a symbolic gesture, Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the White House. (“A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people: harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”) As it turned out, “a road not taken” was the accurate description. On entering the Oval Office in 1981, Ronald Reagan caught the mood of the era perfectly. One of his first acts was to order the removal of those panels and none were reinstalled for three decades, until Barack Obama was president.
Carter would, in fact, make his mark on U.S. energy policy, just not quite in the way he had imagined. Six months later, on January 23, 1980, in his last State of the Union Address, he would proclaim what came to be known as the Carter Doctrine: “Let our position be absolutely clear,” he said. “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
No one would laugh him out of the room for that. Instead, the Pentagon would fatefully begin organizing itself to protect U.S. (and oil) interests in the Persian Gulf on a new scale and America’s oil wars would follow soon enough. Not long after that address, it would start building up a Rapid Deployment Force in the Gulf that would in the end become U.S. Central Command. More than three decades later, ironies abound: thanks in part to those oil wars, whole swaths of the energy-rich Middle East are in crisis, if not chaos, while the big energy companies have put time and money into a staggeringly fossil-fuel version of Carter’s “alternative” North America. They’ve focused on shale oil, and on shale gas as well, and with new production methods, they are reputedly on the brink of turning the United States into a “new Saudi Arabia.”
If true, this would be the worst, not the best, of news. In a world where what used to pass for good news increasingly guarantees a nightmarish future, energy “independence” of this sort means the extraction of ever more extreme energy, ever more carbon dioxide heading skyward, and ever more planetary damage in our collective future. This was not the only path available to us, or even to Big Oil.
With their staggering profits, they could have decided anywhere along the line that the future they were ensuring was beyond dangerous. They could themselves have led the way with massive investments in genuine alternative energies (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, algal, and who knows what else), instead of the exceedingly small-scale ones they made, often for publicity purposes. They could have backed a widespread effort to search for other ways that might, in the decades to come, have offered something close to the energy levels fossil fuels now give us. They could have worked to keep the extreme-energy reserves that turn out to be surprisingly commonplace deep in the Earth.
And we might have had a different world (from which, by the way, they would undoubtedly have profited handsomely). Instead, what we’ve got is the equivalent of a tobacco company situation, but on a planetary scale. To complete the analogy, imagine for a moment that they were planning to produce even more prodigious quantities not of fossil fuels but of cigarettes, knowing what damage they would do to our health. Then imagine that, without exception, everyone on Earth was forced to smoke several packs of them a day.
If that isn’t a terrorist — or terrarist — attack of an almost unimaginable sort, what is? If the oil execs aren’t terrarists, then who is? And if that doesn’t make the big energy companies criminal enterprises, then how would you define that term?
To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? Isn’t that terracide?
President Barack Obama, in a major counterterrorism policy speech today, said the United States “is still threatened by terrorists,” but “the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11.”
Watch the speech live now on CNN TV and CNN’s mobile apps and get updates on CNN.com.
Obama said homegrown extremism, lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates and threats to overseas diplomatic facilities and businesses represent the “future of terrorism.”
“America is at a crossroads” in the fight against terror, Obama said. “What we can do — what we must do — is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.”
We feel that one of the main backgrounds of present day terrorism are effects of climate change upon countries overseas where the pool of potential terrorists is formed initially.
You’ve probably heard the appalling news that, for the first time in human history, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has just passed 400 parts per million. (Eh? Scientific America’s explanation here). It’s been 2.5 million years since CO2 was last at this level – at which point, temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees C higher, the Arctic was ice-free, global weather patterns were completely different, sea levels were up to 40 metres higher and humans did not live on the planet.
Which means that we are heading for an even worse scenario than the one we depicted in The Age of Stupid: Africa uninhabitable, continental Europe mostly desert, Australia’s agricultural system destroyed, hundreds of major cities underwater, hundreds of millions of people dead and many more on the move. Possibly within my lifetime (born 1972, hoping to live to 2062), but almost certainly within my daughter Eva’s (born 2012, hoping to live to 2102).
Scientists (proper ones, not oil-industry sponsored) have calculated the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be 350 parts per million (hence the campaign, 350.org, see their video explanation here). The last time we were in this safe zone was October 1988, which itself was a long way passed the 280ppm we were at when we started seriously burning fossil fuels at the beginning of industrialisation. To get back to safety at 350ppm, we need nothing less than a “transformation to a low-carbon economy for the entirety of human civilisation“, as Mark Lynas says in Age of Stupid, which is “obviously a huge, monumental task, probably the greatest that humanity has ever faced. “.
So what the hell are we all going to do now?
-> Should we pile pressure on to the UN, in the hope that they defy all expectations and finally make the international agreement needed to slash global emissions?
-> Should we start a National Strike, bringing the country to a standstill until the Government goes onto a war footing on climate change?
-> Should we go into survivalist mode, buying up guns and fortifying our homes? It sounds extreme, but it’s not a coincidence that people working on climate change are buying pieces of land far away from centres of population to move their families
-> Should we party party party now, flying all round the world gorging on fossil fuels, pretending we don’t know it’s happening?
-> Should we take the moral high ground and continue to cut our own emissions, despite knowing it will make F-all difference?
-> Should we transfer all our assets into geo-engineering, on the miniscule off-chance that someone will come up with a tech fix in time?
-> Should we leave our jobs and devote our working lives to building a new political movement to take over when this one inevitably collapses in the face of the catastrophe it did nothing to stop?
-> Should we join our localTransition Towns, working together to build resilience into our communities, despite it being hard to see what difference that could make when continental Europe becomes a desert and 700 million people start heading north?
- > Should we stockpile cyanide? You think I’m exaggerating, but a close friend of mine, who has four children, said she plans to kill herself and them when it comes to it.
I am extremely interested to know what everyone is thinking and whether anyone sees any positive ways forward… Please reply to this email or go tothis webpage and add a comment.
Yours in despair, Franny Twitter: @frannyarmstrong
PS: Stupid’s graphics dude Greg McKneally – who designed the tower which Pete Postlethwaite’s character lives in – has been given 20 hours (20 hours!) of interview time with Professor James Lovelock to make a definitive documentary on the great eco thinker. Greg’s team have just launched their crowd-funding campaign to raise £20K, please chip in if you can: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1254460922/the-best-of-all-possible-worlds-james-lovelock-doc-0
We kept the April 12, 2013 New York Times article as a draft because we basically found it very one-sided and know very little about “Berkeley Earth” or Elizabeth Muller (*), but with information about the Koch Brothers professed skepticism of progressive ideas.
Now we decided to post this because of Fareed Zakaria, someone we hold in high esteem, saying this Sunday on CNN/GPS, that in order to start putting a limit to the emission of CO2 globally, the best step for the US would be to share, what he called safe technologies of Shale Fracking and gas production, this in order to replace the reliance on burning coal as it is done now in China. We know this to be the wrong advice:
(1) there is no technology of “fracking the shale” that is safe to the ground water reservoirs.
(2) fracking and shale-gas will slow down the commercialization of truly positive renewable energy technologies,
and (3) the worse of all – it starts looking like “The Rhinoceros” of World War II Eugene Ionesco – the slow developing of a takeover by an aggressive wrong and obnoxious ideology – and the Koch Brothers are versed in technologies in this respect.
So – let us say: Fareed Zakaria expressed the idea that Shale Gas is a step in the right direction, but we do not think so – and thousands of scientists agree with us but have suspicions about the proponents of the fracking myth.
China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas.
By ELIZABETH MULLER
Published, The New York Times on-line: April 12, 2013
IF the Senate confirms the nomination of the M.I.T. scientist Ernest J. Moniz as the next energy secretary, as expected, he must use his new position to consider the energy situation not only in the United States, but in China as well.
Mr. Moniz, a professor of physics and engineering systems and the director of M.I.T.’s Energy Initiative, sailed through a confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
But some environmentalists are skeptical of Mr. Moniz. He is known for advocating natural gas and nuclear power as cleaner sources of energy than coal and for his support of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale deposits. The environmental group Food and Water Watch has warned that as energy secretary, he “could set renewable energy development back years.”
The criticism is misplaced. Instead of fighting hydraulic fracturing, environmental activists should recognize that the technique is vital to the broader effort to contain climate change and should be pushing for stronger standards and controls over the process.
Nowhere is this challenge and opportunity more pressing than in China. Exploiting its vast resources of shale gas is the only short-term way for China, the world’s second-largest economy, to avoid huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal.
China’s greenhouse gas emissions are twice those of the United States and growing at 8 percent to 10 percent per year. Last year, China increased its coal-fired generating capacity by 50 gigawatts, enough to power a city that uses seven times the energy of New York City. By 2020, an analysis by Berkeley Earth shows, China will emit greenhouse gases at four times the rate of the United States, and even if American emissions were to suddenly disappear tomorrow, world emissions would be back at the same level within four years as a result of China’s growth alone.
The only way to offset such an enormous increase in energy use is to help China switch from coal to natural gas. A modern natural gas plant emits between one-third and one-half of the carbon dioxide released by coal for the same amount of electric energy produced. China has the potential to unearth large amounts of shale gas through hydraulic fracturing. In 2011, the United States Energy Information Administration estimated that China had “technically recoverable” reserves of 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet, nearly 50 percent more than the United States.
The risk is that what is now a nascent Chinese shale gas industry may take off in a way that leads to ecological disaster. Many of the purchasers of drilling rights in recent Chinese auctions are inexperienced.
Opponents of this drilling method point to cases in which gas wells have polluted groundwater or released “fugitive” methane gas emissions. The groundwater issue is worrisome, of course, and weight for weight, methane has a global warming potential 25 to 70 times higher than carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas that results from the burning of coal.
Moving away from fossil fuels entirely may make sense in the United States, where we can potentially afford to pay for more expensive renewable sources of energy. But developing countries have other priorities, like improving the education and health of their people. Given the dangers that hydraulic fracturing poses for groundwater pollution and gas leaks, we must help China develop an approach that is environmentally sound.
Mr. Moniz has warned of the need to curb environmental damage from the process. But he has also stressed the value of natural gas as a “bridging” source of energy as we strive to move from largely dirty energy to clean energy. Extracting shale gas in an environmentally responsible way is technically achievable, according to engineering experts. Accomplishing that goal is primarily a matter of engineering and regulation.
That is where we need the engagement of environmental activists. At home, they can push the United States to set verifiable standards for clean hydraulic fracturing and enforce those standards through careful monitoring. Internationally, American industry can lead by showing that clean production can be profitable.
We need a solution for energy production that can displace the rapid growth of coal use today. Switching from coal to natural gas could reduce the growth of China’s emissions by more than 50 percent and give the world more time to bring down the cost of solar and wind energy to levels that are affordable for poorer countries.
* Elizabeth Muller is the co-founder and executive director of Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit research organization focused on climate change.
Elizabeth has advised governments in over 30 countries, in both the developed and developing world. She has extensive experience with stakeholder engagement and communications, especially with regard to technical issues. She developed numerous techniques for bringing government and private actors together to build consensus and implement action plans, and has a proven ability to deliver sustainable change. She has also designed and implemented projects for public sector clients, helping them to build new policies and strategies for government reform and modernization, collaboration across government ministries and agencies, and strategies for the information society.
Elizabeth holds a Bachelors Degree from the University of California with a double major in Mathematics and Literature, and a Masters Degree in International Management from the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris.
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team includes statisticians, physicists, climate experts and others with experience analyzing large and complex data sets.
Our main scientific effort continues to be the study and exploration of our huge database and the results of our temperature analysis. Because the oceans exert a moderating effect, their inclusion is important for estimating the long-term impact of human-caused climate change.
We have begun a study of the variability of temperature, and the rate of occurrence of extreme events. Extreme events include heat waves, which are expected to become more frequent due both to global warming and to the urban heat island effects. Such an event occurred in Chicago in 1995 and led to an excess of about 750 heat-wave related deaths. Equally important may be the effects that global warming will have on cold waves. City planners need to understand what to expect at both extremes.
Although warming is expected to lead to more heat waves, it is not clear whether the variability – difference between high temperatures and low temperatures – will change. Although some prior studies have suggested that it does, our preliminary work shows that the range of temperature extremes (difference between hottest and coldest days) is remaining remarkably constant, even as the temperature rose over the past 50 years. Memos describing these preliminary results were posted on our website in early 2013. Additional analysis will test these initial conclusions and we expect to be able reduce the error uncertainties and reach stronger conclusions.
We will continue with exploratory data analysis (a statistical method developed by John Tukey), and we will share our results with the public in the forms of memos posted online and of papers submitted to peer reviewed journals.
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Study has created a preliminary merged data set by combining 1.6 billion temperature reports from 16 preexisting data archives.
IT ALSO SAYS SOMETHING THAT WORRIES US TREMENDOUSLY – THIS BECAUSE THE KOCH FAMILY IS BEING MENTIONED:
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project is an effort to resolve criticism of the current records of the Earth’s surface temperatures by preparing an open database and analysis of these temperatures and temperature trends, to be available online, with all calculations, methods and results also to be freely available online. BEST is a project conceived of and funded by the Novim group at University of California at Santa Barbara. BEST’s stated aim is a “transparent approach, based on data analysis.” “Our results will include not only our best estimate for the global temperature change, but estimates of the uncertainties in the record.”
BEST founder Richard A. Muller told The Guardian “…we are bringing the spirit of science back to a subject that has become too argumentative and too contentious, ….we are an independent, non-political, non-partisan group. We will gather the data, do the analysis, present the results and make all of it available. There will be no spin, whatever we find. We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close.”
The BEST project is funded by unrestricted educational grants totalling (as of March 2011) about $635,000. Large donors include Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (FICER), and the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation. The donors have no control over how BEST conducts the research or what they publish.
The team’s preliminary findings, data sets and programs were made available to the public in October 2011, and their first scientific paper was published in December 2012. The study addressed scientific concerns raised by skeptics including urban heat island effect, poor station quality, and the risk of data selection bias. The Berkeley Earth group concluded that the warming trend is real, that over the past 50 years (between the decades of the 1950s and 2000s) the land surface warmed by 0.91±0.05°C, and their results mirrors those obtained from earlier studies carried out by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Hadley Centre, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Surface Temperature Analysis, and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The study also found that the urban heat island effect and poor station quality did not bias the results obtained from these earlier studies.
Charles de Ganahl Koch (pron.: /?ko?k/; born November 1, 1935) is an American businessman and philanthropist. He is co-owner, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Koch Industries. His brother David H. Koch also owns 42% of Koch Industries and serves as Executive Vice President. The brothers inherited the business from their father, Fred C. Koch, and have since expanded the business to 2,600 times its inherited size. Originally involved exclusively in oil refining and chemicals, Koch Industries has expanded to include process and pollution control equipment and technologies; polymers and fibers; minerals; fertilizers; commodity trading and services; forest and consumer products; and ranching. The businesses produce a wide variety of well-known brands, such as Stainmaster carpet, Lycra fiber, Quilted Northern tissue and Dixie Cup. In 2007, Koch’s book The Science of Success was published. The book describes his management philosophy, referred to as “Market-Based Management”.
Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company by revenue in the United States according to a 2010 Forbes survey and as of October 2012 Charles was ranked the 6th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $34 billion – according to the Bloomberg Billionares Index - and was ranked 18th on Forbes World’s Billionaires list of 2011 (and 4th on the Forbes 400), with an estimated net worth of $25 billion, deriving from his 42% stake in Koch Industries..
ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA: Business Partnerships – An effective instrument for development cooperation
How innovative cooperation supports the development of markets for renewable energy
Date – 28 May 2013
Time – 14:30 to 16:00
Location – Rittersaal
This side-event discusses innovative forms of cooperation between the private sector and established structures of development cooperation to develop new markets. Examples from the renewable energy sector show how both recipient countries and companies can utilize the opportunities of business partnerships. Traditional development cooperation faces many challenges, so alternative approaches are required. As business and development belong together, partnerships with the private sector are getting more and more important. Join the discussion on business partnerships and the development of renewable energy markets!
European Commission Joint Research Centre: Creating and sharing knowledge together on African Renewable Energy Sources
Date: 28 May 2013
Time: 16:00 – 17:30
Location: Mittlere Lounge
On the occasion of the Vienna Energy Forum 2013, JRC will release findings from the newest report “The availability of Renewable Energies in a changing Africa”. This report follows and extends the 2011 JRC report “Renewable energies in Africa” and focuses on the climatic, demographic and technological changes expecting to involve Africa in next decades and how they will impact the Renewable Energy production and deployment opportunities in the continent. This side event will explore to what extent climate change has affect the ability of the renewable energy sources to deliver their important resources to this goal and will look at the potential of the available options. Come and join the second report presentation, discuss issues with authors, and test the latest online tool developed to visualize off-grid electricity production options in Africa.
GFSE: Sustainable Energy Solutions for All: Made in Austria
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 09:00 to 11:00
Location – Trabantenstube
Austrian know-how and technologies have a lot to offer to make inclusive sustainable energy solutions a reality. In this side event, the Austrian experience in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency will be presented. The event also seeks to facilitate the identification of cooperation opportunities for different actors in the context of SE4All. It will also highlight the value-added of multi-stakeholder networks in enabling joint action. We would be delighted if you could join the discussion.
IIASA: Multiple Benefits of the Global Energy Transformation Recent Research Findings
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 09:30 to 13:00
Location – Künstlerzimmer
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is organizing the VEF side event “Multiple Benefits of the Global Energy Transformations: Recent Research Findings”. The main global problem areas of research at IIASA – energy and climate change, food and water, and poverty and equity – are among the greatest challenges facing humanity today. The side event will present recent research findings – focusing on energy and technology – and their relevance to the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The Global Energy Assessment (GEA), completed in 2012, was an important component of the energy-related activities at IIASA and some of the new research activities at IIASA are building upon the findings of GEA.
IAEA: Promoting a Sustainable Energy Future: the Role of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 10:00 to 12:00
Location – Mittlere Lounge
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supports its Member States in their efforts towards a sustainable energy future. In this side event, IAEA representatives will showcase the successful contribution of the Agency to build capacity, disseminate information, raise awareness and foster cooperation within and among Member States to help them make informed decisions regarding the most appropriate energy strategies. Topics discussed will include the sustainability of nuclear power as a clean energy solution, capacity building activities, the role of innovative technology solutions and the critical steps to introduce or expand a nuclear power programme.
EUEI PDF: Africa-EU Private Sector Cooperation: Matchmaking for win-win business opportunities in the renewables sector?
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 11:30 to 13:00
Location – Trabantenstube
The Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP) is a multi-donor and multi-implementer programme that aims to accelerate the use of renewable energy in Africa. It was launched by more than 35 African and European Ministers at the First High-Level Meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) in Vienna in September 2010. While the programme has already launched a number of support interventions in the area of policy advisory services, this side event aims at reflecting on the types of support interventions necessary to foster an active exchange and linking of African and European private sectors actors, as well as highlighting some of the positive examples where European and African actors have successfully worked together.
Launch of the SE4All Global Tracking Framework
Date – 28 May 2013
Time: 14:00 to 14:45
Location – Radetzkysaal II
Prepared by a team of energy experts from 15 agencies under the leadership of the World Bank and the International Energy Agency, the report provides a comprehensive snapshot of over 180 countries’ status with respect to action on energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as energy consumption. As the Millennium Development Goals process has clearly demonstrated, measurable goals that enjoy widespread consensus can mobilize commitments to action, strategic partnerships and widespread support from key stakeholders and whole societies. For many, the Sustainable Energy for All initiative is an illustration of what a Sustainable Development Goal for the energy sector would look like. However, it is well known that measure progress is critical to achieving goals and getting results. The Global Tracking Framework Report is the answer to the challenge of measuring and reporting progress towards achieving the Sustainable Energy for All goals and objectives.. The report’s framework for data collection and analysis will enable us to monitor progress on the SE4ALL objectives from now to 2030.
The Energy Future We Want – Including Water & Food in the Energy Debate
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 14:30 to 16:00
Location – Radetzky II
The side-event will provide a global platform to discuss recent international undertakings and progress on the water-energy-food nexus. The side-event will stimulate contributions and insights from institutions and individual experts on strategies to include water and food in the energy debate as nations around the world develop new energy policies and evaluate the options they want to follow in response to the SE4All initiative. Contribute to the nexus debate by sharing your experience and expertise with representatives from the private sector, researchers, policy makers and water/energy experts around the world on the intricate links between water, energy and food.
Regional Sustainable Energy Centers in Africa: Creating Regional Markets to Support the Decade of Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL)
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 14:30 to 18:00
Location – Trabantenstube
The Energy and Climate Change Branch of UNIDO, in close collaboration with the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy (GFSE), are organizing the VEF side event “Regional Sustainable Energy Centers in Africa: Creating Regional Markets to Support the Decade of Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL)”. The side event will facilitate discussions on the added value and possible actions of a south-south cooperation network between regional sustainable energy promotion centers in Africa. It will highlight the roles of the Centers as part of the institutional structure of the SE4ALL initiative. In a learning event, the ECOWAS Observatory for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECOWREX), one of the flag-ship programs of ECREEE will be introduced to the audience. Finally, a new publication on Renewable Energy Status and Trends in West Africa will be presented.
UNIDO: Women’s Leadership on Energy Justice in Productive Sectors
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 15:00 to 17:00; Networking Drinks from 17:00
Location – Künstlerzimmer
Increasing energy access for productive use will generate opportunities for women to earn a living for themselves and their families, but the debate thus far has been mainly focused on women’s domestic needs. At this side-event, we will look beyond the household door and discuss how to empower women to become active producers, managers, promoters, sellers and leaders of modern energy services for a truly sustainable solution to energy poverty. We would be delighted if you could join us to share your experiences and expertise in this debate.
TEL ABYAD, Syria — I just spent a day in this northeast Syrian town. It was terrifying — much more so than I anticipated — but not because we were threatened in any way by the Free Syrian Army soldiers who took us around or by the Islamist Jabhet al-Nusra fighters who stayed hidden in the shadows. It was the local school that shook me up.
Thomas L. Friedman by Josh Haner/The New York Times
As we were driving back to the Turkish border, I noticed a school and asked the driver to turn around so I could explore it. It was empty — of students. But war refugees had occupied the classrooms and little kids’ shirts and pants were drying on a line strung across the playground. The basketball backboard was rusted, and a local parent volunteered to give me a tour of the bathrooms, which he described as disgusting. Classes had not been held in two years. And that is what terrified me. Men with guns I’m used to. But kids without books, teachers or classes for a long time — that’s trouble. Big trouble.
They grow up to be teenagers with too many guns and too much free time, and I saw a lot of them in Tel Abyad. They are the law of the land here now, but no two of them wear the same uniform, and many are just in jeans. These boys bravely joined the adults of their town to liberate it from the murderous tyranny of Bashar al-Assad, but now the war has ground to a stalemate, so here, as in so many towns across Syria, life is frozen in a no-man’s land between order and chaos. There is just enough patched-up order for people to live — some families have even rigged up bootleg stills that refine crude oil into gasoline to keep cars running — but not enough order to really rebuild, to send kids to school or to start businesses.
So Syria as a whole is slowly bleeding to death of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. You can’t help but ask whether it will ever be a unified country again and what kind of human disaster will play out here if a whole generation grows up without school.
“Syria is becoming Somalia,” said Zakaria Zakaria, a 28-year-old Syrian who graduated from college with a major in English and who acted as our guide. “Students have now lost two years of school, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and if this goes on for two more years it will be like Somalia, a failed country. But Somalia is off somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Syria is the heart of the Middle East. I don’t want this to happen to my country. But the more it goes on, the worse it will be.”
This is the agony of Syria today. You can’t imagine the war here continuing for another year, let alone five. But when you feel the depth of the rage against the Assad government and contemplate the sporadic but barbaric sect-on-sect violence, you can’t imagine any peace deal happening or holding — not without international peacekeepers on the ground to enforce it. Eventually, we will all have to have that conversation, because this is no ordinary war.
THIS Syrian disaster is like a superstorm. It’s what happens when an extreme weather event, the worst drought in Syria’s modern history, combines with a fast-growing population and a repressive and corrupt regime and unleashes extreme sectarian and religious passions, fueled by money from rival outside powers — Iran and Hezbollah on one side, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar on the other, each of which have an extreme interest in its Syrian allies’ defeating the other’s allies — all at a time when America, in its post-Iraq/Afghanistan phase, is extremely wary of getting involved.
I came here to write my column and work on a film for the Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the “Jafaf,” or drought, one of the key drivers of the Syrian war. In an age of climate change, we’re likely to see many more such conflicts.
“The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work.
Because of the population explosion that started here in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to better health care, those leaving the countryside came with huge families and settled in towns around cities like Aleppo. Some of those small towns swelled from 2,000 people to 400,000 in a decade or so. The government failed to provide proper schools, jobs or services for this youth bulge, which hit its teens and 20s right when the revolution erupted.
Rebels in Tel Abyad, in northeast Syria, in 2012. Life in the town has ground to a halt, with children not in school, and no solution in sight.
Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. “Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land” for urban areas during the last decade, said Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized. “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”
Young people and farmers starved for jobs — and land starved for water — were a prescription for revolution. Just ask those who were here, starting with Faten, whom I met in her simple flat in Sanliurfa, a Turkish city near the Syrian border. Faten, 38, a Sunni, fled there with her son Mohammed, 19, a member of the Free Syrian Army, who was badly wounded in a firefight a few months ago. Raised in the northeastern Syrian farming village of Mohasen, Faten, who asked me not to use her last name, told me her story.
She and her husband “used to own farmland,” said Faten. “We tended annual crops. We had wheat, barley and everyday food — vegetables, cucumbers, anything we could plant instead of buying in the market. Thank God there were rains, and the harvests were very good before. And then suddenly, the drought happened.”
What did it look like? “To see the land made us very sad,” she said. “The land became like a desert, like salt.” Everything turned yellow.
Did Assad’s government help? “They didn’t do anything,” she said. “We asked for help, but they didn’t care. They didn’t care about this subject. Never, never. We had to solve our problems ourselves.”
So what did you do? “When the drought happened, we could handle it for two years, and then we said, ‘It’s enough.’ So we decided to move to the city. I got a government job as a nurse, and my husband opened a shop. It was hard. The majority of people left the village and went to the city to find jobs, anything to make a living to eat.” The drought was particularly hard on young men who wanted to study or marry but could no longer afford either, she added. Families married off daughters at earlier ages because they couldn’t support them.
Faten, her head conservatively covered in a black scarf, said the drought and the government’s total lack of response radicalized her. So when the first spark of revolutionary protest was ignited in the small southern Syrian town of Dara’a, in March 2011, Faten and other drought refugees couldn’t wait to sign on. “Since the first cry of ‘Allahu akbar,’ we all joined the revolution. Right away.” Was this about the drought? “Of course,” she said, “the drought and unemployment were important in pushing people toward revolution.”
ZAKARIA ZAKARIA was a teenager in nearby Hasakah Province when the drought hit and he recalled the way it turned proud farmers, masters of their own little plots of land, into humiliated day laborers, working for meager wages in the towns “just to get some money to eat.” What was most galling to many, said Zakaria, was that if you wanted a steady government job you had to bribe a bureaucrat or know someone in the state intelligence agency.
The best jobs in Hasakah Province, Syria’s oil-producing region, were with the oil companies. But drought refugees, virtually all of whom were Sunni Muslims, could only dream of getting hired there. “Most of those jobs went to Alawites from Tartous and Latakia,” said Zakaria, referring to the minority sect to which President Assad belongs and which is concentrated in these coastal cities. “It made people even more angry. The best jobs on our lands in our province were not for us, but for people who come from outside.”
Only in the spring of 2011, after the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, did the Assad government start to worry about the drought refugees, said Zakaria, because on March 11 — a few days before the Syrian uprising would start in Dara’a — Assad visited Hasakah, a very rare event. “So I posted on my Facebook page, ‘Let him see how people are living,’ ” recalled Zakaria. “My friends said I should delete it right away, because it was dangerous. I wouldn’t. They didn’t care how people lived.”
Abu Khalil, 48, is one of those who didn’t just protest. A former cotton farmer who had to become a smuggler to make ends meet for his 16 children after the drought wiped out their farm, he is now the Free Syrian Army commander in the Tel Abyad area. We met at a crushed Syrian Army checkpoint. After being introduced by our Syrian go-between, Abu Khalil, who was built like a tough little boxer, introduced me to his fighting unit. He did not introduce them by rank but by blood, pointing to each of the armed men around him and saying: “My nephew, my cousin, my brother, my cousin, my nephew, my son, my cousin …”
Free Syrian Army units are often family affairs. In a country where the government for decades wanted no one to trust anyone else, it’s no surprise.
“We could accept the drought because it was from Allah,” said Abu Khalil, “but we could not accept that the government would do nothing.”
Before we parted, he pulled me aside to say that all that his men needed were anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons and they could finish Assad off. “Couldn’t Obama just let the Mafia send them to us?” he asked. “Don’t worry, we won’t use them against Israel.”
As part of our film we’ve been following a Syrian woman who is a political activist, Farah Nasif, a 27-year-old Damascus University graduate from Deir-az-Zour, whose family’s farm was also wiped out in the drought.
Nasif typifies the secular, connected, newly urbanized young people who spearheaded the democracy uprisings here and in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. They all have two things in common: they no longer fear their governments or their parents, and they want to live like citizens, with equal rights — not as sects with equal fears.
If this new generation had a motto, noted Aita, the Syrian economist, it would actually be the same one Syrians used in their 1925 war of independence from France: “Religion is for God, and the country is for everyone.”
But Nasif is torn right now. She wants Assad gone and all political prisoners released, but she knows that more war “will only destroy the rest of the country.” And her gut tells her that even once Assad is gone, there is no agreement on who or what should come next. So every option worries her — more war, a cease-fire, the present and the future. This is the agony of Syria today — and why the closer you get to it, the less certain you are how to fix it.
Jonathan Chait | Obama Might Actually Be the Environmental President.
President Obama spoke during a tour of a solar energy firm in Acadia, Fla., last fall. He has focused on renewable power and energy security. (photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, May 11, 2013.
Chait writes: “All the myths of the presidency we cling to are perfectly useless here. The heavy lifting will be, by conventional political terms, invisible. There is no need for Johnsonian arm-twisting or Sorkin-esque rhetorical uplift. The fight of Obama’s second presidential term – the much-mocked fight to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet – requires only the simple exercise of power.” READ MORE
Dr. James Hansen | Norway, Canada, the United States and the Tar Sands Dr. James Hansen, Reader Supported News Dr. Hansen writes: “The common presumption that President Obama is going to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is wrong, in my opinion. The State Department must provide an assessment to President Obama. Secretary of State John Kerry is expert on the climate issue and has long been one of the most thoughtful members of our government. I cannot believe that Secretary Kerry would let his and President Obama’s legacies go down the tar sands drain.” READ MORE
Obamacare Is Already Forcing Private Insurers to Lower Their Premiums Sy Mukherjee, ThinkProgress Mukherjee writes: “As Thursday’s development shows, that public information empowers consumers by forcing insurers to compete with one another to attract customers. Or to put it another way – and contrary to conservative fear-mongering about the law – Obamacare is working exactly as it was intended to.” READ MORE
tate of the Union addresses are wearying rituals, in which stitched-together lists of never-gonna-happen goals are woven into idealistic catchphrases, analyzed as rhetoric by an unqualified panel of poetry-critic-for-a-night political reporters, quickly followed by a hapless opposition-party response, and then, in almost every case, forgotten. This year, plunked into the midst of the tedium was a gigantic revelation, almost surely the most momentous news of President Obama’s second term. “I will direct my Cabinet,” he announced, “to come up with executive actions we can take now and in the future to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Here was a genuine bombshell. It sounded a little vague, and the president did not explain precisely what he intended to do or how he would pull it off. But a handful of environmental wonks had a fairly strong grasp of the project he had committed himself to, and they understood that it was very, very real and very, very doable. If they were to have summarized the news, the headline would have been OBAMA TO SAVE PLANET.
Few outside the green community grasped the meaning of the revelation, and it sank beneath the surface with barely a ripple as bored reporters quickly turned to other matters. Several elements of the Obama agenda – immigration reform, gun control, the budget wars – have since churned busily away in plain view, while his climate pledge has generated no visible action. (Which, as we’ll see, may be just how the administration wants it.)
More than anything, though, Obama’s announcement was shrouded in the pervasive miasma of failure, the stench of too little, too late, that has surrounded his climate agenda. Obama’s election “was accompanied by intense hope that many things in need of change would change,” lamented Al Gore in a 2011 Rolling Stone essay. “Some things have, but others have not. Climate policy, unfortunately, is in the second category.” Matters appear only to have gotten worse since then, especially as climate activists chain themselves to the White House gate to protest the president’s likely approval of the Keystone pipeline. Obama himself has taken an apologetic tone, telling green-minded donors that the politics “are tough,” as people “struggling to get by” care more about providing for their immediate needs than forestalling long-term environmental degradation and climate change.
The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann recently wrote a eulogy for the environmental movement, using the 2010 disintegration of cap-and-trade legislation in Congress as the culmination of failure. “The movement had poured years of effort into the bill, which involved a complicated system for limiting carbon emissions. Now it was dead, and there has been no significant environmental legislation since,” he wrote. “Indeed, one could argue that there has been no major environmental legislation since 1990 … What went wrong?”
The pervasive “what went wrong?” narrative contains a series of assumptions: that Obama can prevail only by winning over public opinion and Congress, that the fate of his climate policy hinged on the cap-and-trade bill, and that the primary question hanging over his environmental record is how to apportion blame. None of these assumptions is correct.
The assumption that Obama’s climate-change record is essentially one of failure is mainly an artifact of environmentalists’ understandably frantic urgency. The sort of steady progress that would leave activists on other issues giddy does not satisfy the sort of person whose waking hours are spent watching the glaciers melt irreversibly. But there is a difference between failing to do anything and failing to do enough, and even those who criticize the president’s efforts as inadequate ought to be clear-eyed about what has been accomplished. By the normal standards of progress, Obama has amassed an impressive record so far on climate change.
There are two basic ways to measure this, which must be taken together. The first, and simplest, is to ask: How much carbon are we emitting into the atmosphere? In the first year of Obama’s presidency, the United State pledged that by 2020 it would reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 17 percent (starting from the level set in 2005). That 17 percent reduction is the brass ring of the environmental movement. It is the target the cap-and-trade legislation was designed to hit. It is also the target that Obama must be able to claim he is on track to reach by the time of the next international climate summit in 2015. That occasion, most observers agree, will probably be the world’s last chance to sign an accord that averts catastrophically and permanently higher temperatures.
As it happens, after decades of rising, carbon-dioxide emissions in the United States started falling in 2008. They have kept falling. By the end of last year, emissions had fallen almost 12 percent below the 2005 level. That is to say, with 12 percent of the 17 percent drop having already occurred, and seven more years to go until the target date, the U.S. is two-thirds of the way to its environmental goal after just one-third of the time has passed. If you follow this measure, climate policy looks like a runaway success.
This metric isn’t entirely fair, of course, because most, though not all, of this drop occurred for reasons having nothing to do with Obama. About half of the emissions drop can probably be attributed to the recession. (When people cut back on their spending, they do less driving, don’t run the air conditioner as high, and so on.) Another portion of the decline occurred because the fracking boom flooded the market with cheap natural gas, which replaced much dirtier coal. These trends will probably level off, as the price of natural gas has plunged so quickly drillers have already scaled back their production. Still, even if the progress was temporary and mainly a result of luck, it has provided Obama with breathing room that most observers haven’t been willing to grant him.
The second way to measure Obama’s climate-change record is: What has he done? He has done quite a bit, probably far more than you think, and not all of it advertised as climate legislation, or advertised as much of anything at all. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was many things – primarily, a desperate bid to shove money into enough Americans’ pockets to prevent another Great Depression – but one of them was a major piece of environmental reform. The law contained upwards of $90 billion in subsidies for green energy, which had a catalyzing effect on burgeoning industries. American wind-power generation has doubled, and solar power has increased more than six times over. As Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald detailed in his book The New New Deal, the new law suddenly transformed the Department of Energy, previously a sclerotic backwater charged mainly with overseeing the nuclear-weapons cache, into a massive new engine of cutting-edge environmental science.
The stimulus had the misfortune of absorbing the brunt of the public’s dismay with the economic crisis, and Republicans successfully turned Solyndra, an anomalous case of a green-energy subsidy that went bust, into a symbol that rendered the whole law so unpopular Democrats quickly grew afraid to tout it. Even a close observer like Lemann has forgotten that it was indeed “major environmental legislation.” And yet, the wave of innovation – new fuels, plus turbines, energy meters, and other futuristic devices – will reverberate for years. Envia Systems, a stimulus-financed clean-energy firm in Silicon Valley, has developed technology for electric-car batteries three times as efficient as the technology in the Volt, capable of shaving $5,000 off the sticker price of an electric car when it comes to market in 2015. Just a few weeks ago, the Times reported on a new stimulus-financed research project to increase the energy content (and thus reduce the emissions) of natural gas.
The administration has also carried out an ambitious program of regulation, having imposed or announced higher standards for gas mileage in cars, fuel cleanliness, energy efficiency in appliances, and emissions from new power plants. In aggregate, they amount to a major assault on climate change. Some environmentalists judge them to be insufficient – a fair critique – but many more Obama supporters aren’t even aware that they exist. This is likely because none of these regulations produced any political theater. There was no legislation, no ponderous Sunday-morning talk-show chin-scratching, no dramatic wrangling of votes on the House floor. Just the issuing of a new regulation, a smallish one-daystory.
Last August, for instance, the administration announced it was ratcheting up vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, from 29.7 miles per gallon to 54.5 miles per gallon. The news barely got a day of coverage, coming as it did during the first day of the Republican National Convention. About six weeks ago, the administration announced new standards for cleaner gasoline. “There is not another air-pollution-control strategy that we know of that will produce as substantial, cost-effective, and expeditious emissions reductions,” cooed the executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. Remember that?
The political theater has instead played itself out in two episodes in which Obama has appeared impotent, or even indifferent, in the face of climate change. Currently, we are in the midst of the drama over the proposed Keystone pipeline, which Obama has hinted he will approve. NASA scientist James Hansen has proclaimed the pipeline, which would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands, “game over” for the climate. Most analysts, though, don’t support Hansen’s apocalyptic view. A survey of studies conducted by the Congressional Research Service found that the pipeline would increase carbon emissions by anywhere from 0.06 percent to 0.3 percent per year. (Note that emissions dropped 3.7 percent – twelve times the high-end estimate – last year.) Wonkblog reporter Brad Plumer called the pipeline “a slight step in the opposite direction” of meeting Obama’s climate goals. The pipeline’s outsize role in the presidential campaign, and the noisy protests it inspires, have elevated it far beyond the scale of more consequential environmental decisions.
The central environmental drama of the Obama years was the failure of the cap-and-trade bill in 2010. Both Obama and the environmentalists had invested all their soaring hopes in that bill. Its failure, a months-long slow bleed of wavering coal-state Democrats and hardening Republican intransigence, amounted to a kind of psychological torture for environmentalists. Cap-and-trade’s demise came to emblematize environmental policy in the Obama era. Ryan Lizza, in a lengthy 2010 New Yorker reportorial narrative, tabbed it “perhaps the last best chance to deal with global warming in the Obama era.”
It was not the last best chance to deal with global warming in the Obama era. There is one more.
On December 31, 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. The dispatches from that era feel unfathomably remote. The law passed Congress with Pearl Harbor war-resolution levels of support: In the House, 374 members favored it, with just one Nebraska Republican opposed. The Senate passed it 73-0. “Anti-pollution laws,” explained the Times, “did not excite political rivalry.” The law embodied a sweeping brand of environmental absolutism that would make Al Gore blush. It mandated that power plants use the best available technology, with no apparent thought given to the cost.
Obviously, nothing remotely like such a law could pass either chamber today. (Even Democrats favor more-cautious approaches to limiting pollution.) But the four-decade-old law has gained a new relevance to the climate crisis through a cascading, often dramatic series of recent events. The law requires the EPA to regulate “air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Scientists at the time did not recognize that carbon dioxide contributed to global warming; they were more concerned with the human health effects of carbon monoxide and other chemicals. But as the scientific case for climate change hardened, environmentalists filed suit to force the EPA to regulate carbon emissions like other pollutants. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in the environmentalists’ favor. In 2008, the agency officially deemed carbon dioxide a pollutant, and sent its finding to the White House. The Bush administration refused to open the e-mail, thus, incredibly, running out the clock on any legal obligation.
The coming of the Obama administration, with its greater affinity for opening e-mails and lower affinity for fossil-fuel industries, resolved the question of whether Washington had an obligation to regulate carbon emissions. After Obama’s original cap-and-trade plan failed, he started using the agency regulatory powers directly. (This is how Obama has been able to issue new regulations on cars, fuel, appliances, and future power plants.)
So far, there is one hole in his regulatory agenda: power plants that currently exist. This is, unfortunately, a very large hole, as these plants, mostly coal, emit 40 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions. Coal is so inherently dirty that no available technology can prevent a plant from emitting unacceptable levels of greenhouse gases. You can require more-efficient cars or more-efficient refrigerators, and the industry will respond. You can’t really require coal plants to be anything more than slightly cleaner; it’s just physically impossible. The only meaningful standard one could impose for a coal plant would result in all of America’s coal plants shutting down – which, even if phased in slowly, would carry large costs and likely provoke a revolt from people suddenly staring at huge electric bills. The EPA’s choice, as environmental writer David Roberts has put it, appears to be “either a firecracker or a nuke.”
During Obama’s first term, the nuke was useful, as nukes tend to be, only as a threat. The idea was so abhorrent to power companies and some Republicans that it brought them to the bargaining table during the cap-and-trade negotiations. When negotiations collapsed, the prevailing assumption was that the ability to regulate existing plants had become a useless tool, paradoxically too powerful to actually deploy.
Then, a few weeks after last year’s election, the Natural Resources Defense Council published a plan for the EPA to regulate existing power plants in a way that was neither ineffectual nor draconian. The proposal would set state-by-state limits on emissions. It sounds simple, but this was a conceptual breakthrough. Much like a cap-and-trade bill, it would allow market signals to indicate the most efficient ways for states to hit their targets – instead of shutting coal plants down, some utilities might pay consumers to weatherize their homes, while others might switch some of their generators over to cleaner fuels. The flexibility of the scheme would, in turn, reduce the costs passed on to consumers. Here is a way for Obama to use his powers – his own powers, unencumbered by the morass of a dysfunctional Congress – in such a way that is neither as ineffectual as a firecracker nor as devastating as a nuke: The NRDC calculates its plan would reduce our reliance on coal by about a quarter and national carbon emissions by 10 percent.
This is the last best chance to deal with global warming in the Obama era. The prospect, for environmentalists, is exhilarating but also harrowing. The struggle will be lengthy, waged largely behind closed doors, and its outcome won’t be known until the Obama presidency is nearly over.
In the second week of April, the acting administrator of the EPA told reporters that a state-based plan to regulate existing power plants – that is, something like the Natural Resources Defense Council plan – is “certainly something that will be on the table in this next fiscal year.” That was a gaffe. Officially, the Obama administration has no such plan, and the agency issued a quick official correction, a masterpiece of the passive voice: “To assert that any decision on any additional action has been made would be incorrect.”
The official administration line holds that Congress should pass a cap-and-trade law. In his State of the Union address, Obama prefaced his threat of executive action with a conditional “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” The if is obviously preordained – no possible scenario, not even if John Boehner were ordered to pass a cap-and-trade bill by a returning Jesus Christ, bearing legislative text, could result in Congress’s passing a cap-and-trade law.
And within the environmental world, it is essentially a given that Obama will enact some version of the NRDC plan. Dan Lashof, its lead author, told me, “We are hearing that they’re looking quite seriously at our proposal.” A “person familiar with the matter” told the Wall Street Journal, “You will ultimately see a proposal from EPA to regulate existing power plants.” A group of electric utilities has already circulated a paper predicting that the EPA will do just that.
New regulations would have to withstand a certain legal challenge from the energy industry – though, crucially, implementation would not have to wait as cases wind their way through the courts. The EPA’s authority has withstood several high-profile challenges before, because the law is so broadly written; on the other hand, the challenges to Obamacare remind us that precedent cannot fully predict the behavior of agitated conservative judges. Also like the Obamacare challenge, the legal fight will play out against the backdrop of political war. Republicans in Congress have proposed barring the EPA from using its powers – in Senator James Inhofe’s formulation, “Put Congress, not unaccountable bureaucrats, in charge of deciding the nation’s energy policy.” The Wall Street Journal editorial page has described Obama’s threat to regulate carbon emissions as something akin to the action of a “dictator.”
So the administration and its allies have been mobilizing for combat. It’s not insignificant that Obama chose Denis McDonough, who has a deep background in climate change, to be his second-term chief of staff, or that he promoted Gina McCarthy, who oversaw the rewriting of EPA regulations in his first term, to run the department. Democratic Senators are vowing to block any House Republican attempt to handcuff the EPA. Working in Obama’s favor is the fact that Americans, while disturbingly blasé about climate change, favor federal regulation of greenhouse gases by huge majorities.
Lashof predicted the following sequence of events. The agency will finish drafting its regulation scheme by the end of the year. It will then take about a year of public comments and revisions, at which point it will finalize its rule. That will be the end of 2014, just after the midterm elections. Another nine months to a year will be required to carry out the rule, which will get us to the end of 2015 – and the international climate summit.
The administration’s refusal to publicly commit itself to this strategy, just as it risks losing supporters over the Keystone decision, is in some ways an odd political choice. But it makes sense as a strategy to win the inevitable conflict. The charade of asking Congress to pass new climate legislation demonstrates to the public – and to the courts, inevitably – that the administration is not trying to usurp Congress’s role and will take action on its own only as a final resort.
The timing of a drawn-out regulatory process also dovetails with the progression of Obama’s second-term agenda. The administration needs to cooperate with Republicans to pass immigration reform and harbors at least faint hopes for a budget accord. A muscular exercise of administrative power over environmental policy may reignite the raging anti-government paranoia that made any bipartisan cooperation impossible during Obama’s first term. Far more sensible to pass whatever laws can be passed first.
One also gets the sense, though, that even if Obama shouted his regulatory plans from the rafters, it wouldn’t do much to change the narrative. Outside the narrow energy-and-environment community, few major national reporters or pundits have keyed in to Obama’s strategy. They habitually equate progress with the passage of laws, and the absence of a legislative agenda means the lack of any agenda at all. “Many took note of Mr. Obama’s promise to tackle global warming in his inaugural address,” Edward Luce wrote mournfully in the Financial Times last week. “That was the last anyone heard of it.” The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is typical: “[G]iven the fraught politics around doing anything major on the issue … it seems likely that Obama will go small-bore rather than major overhaul if he wants to get something through Congress.” Note the assumption that doing anything major requires getting it through Congress.
Senator Barbara Boxer, the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, chided reporters earlier this year: “A lot of you press me … on: ‘Where is the bill on climate change? Where is the bill?’ There doesn’t have to be a bill.”
She’s right. We don’t need a law, because Richard Nixon and his Congress, filled with what we today would call wenvironmental wackos, already passed it 40 years ago.
All the myths of the presidency we cling to are perfectly useless here. The heavy lifting will be, by conventional political terms, invisible. There is no need for Johnsonian arm-twisting or Sorkin-esque rhetorical uplift. The fight of Obama’s second presidential term – the much-mocked fight to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet – requires only the simple exercise of power.
Many of the the Solar Table participants own electric vehicles and live in energy-saving homes equiped for use of solar energy.
At the May 2013 meeting, the First presenter was Rosemarie Dietz, a Green visionary from Perchtoldsdorf NO, who related her experiences when crossing on foot the length of Lower Austria (Niederoesterreich) looking for the implementation of renewable energy on her path. She was looking for location of wind-mills and for the use of photovoltaic use of solar energy, but she also found that there were no-more small local restaurants on her way where one could have stopped for a meal and a drink. The villages are shrinking and the young people move to the large cities. The small scale agriculture that was the base of the rural sector has vanished and everything is bought at the large supper markets like in the city – much of it imported from long distance.
The moderator was Gerhard Kohlmaier and the main speaker Professor Hannes Bauer who is now with the Union of Retirees of Lower Austria, Head of the Political and Economic Futures Forum and building an effort for change. His target is the economic security of the individual in a growing strength of the European Union. He clearly sees in providing safeguards for the communities in villages – people living on and from the land – the best way of providing this security – and it clearly grabs our attention because this is also our belief.
Dr. Bauer looked at the ethics of high social, ecological and democratic values as strength for Austria in the EU context – Quality of Life and the Social Security of the citizens are the goals of his sort of politics.
Dr. Hannes Bauer is not a newcomer to Austrian Politics. During the years 1989-1991 and 2000-2008 he was a Socialist Party member of the Austrian Parliament and 1986-1987 State Secretary in the Ministry of Trades, Industry, and Labor. His background is economics – business development. Having started out from the State Government of Lower Austria and entering in 1991 the Leadership of at the the Federal level of the Austrian Socialist Party. He belongs to the Chancellor Bruno Kreisky School of active policy-oriented Socialism.
The meeting of the Solar-Table May meeting was amazing. Besides the Austrian political Reds and Greens, present were also the Blacks, Blues, and the new Stronach Yellow – and all got involved in the conversation. Needless to say that all were for solar energy but had difficulty accepting each-others honesty in pursuing the goal of a decentralized, community-based, small-town or village based economy – though all adhered to such a goal.
Energy was a main topic. How do we build back an agriculture that will provide biofuels, and how do we do so that the villages rely on photovoltaic solar energy and windmills – being independent of big corporation electricity grids, and even able to supply energy to the National grid? How do we convince the governing powers that there is no need of shale-fracking – this beyond the obvious that fracking is dangerous to the environment? How does one handle American intervention in EU economy planning?
I will now do something unusual – I am going to put forward the ideas I voiced at the meeting and which I felt summarized the different points of view in an event that sounded like a political competition, but that could easily be turned into a united National front for independence from outside economic forces. All what is needed now is a single party to come up with such ideas in its platform and invite the others to join in.
Let us start now:
The thesis is that what grows on the land is sustainable and positive, what comes from the inside of the earth will not endure, is unsustainable, and negative.
Planting for food and fuel, for animal feed and industrial feed-stocks, for human and animal life, is all based on the continuous energy that reaches the earth from the sun – thus non depleting.This is done by people living in small communities on the land – this activity if cared for, with the help of appropriate National policies, will keep people on the land and avoid their migration to magnet-cities something the topic of the evening was aimed to achieve.
Planting wind mills and solar collectors, like the photovoltaic collectors, on the land or roof-tops, is just another act of reaping results with the help of solar energy – exactly like growing vegetation or animals. We see no difference here.
Looking under the land for riches deposited in the past, the likes of fossil fuels of all sorts – coal, shale, oil, gas, and figuring out technologies to extract them from underground, amounts to using up in a short time of natures bank-deposits. On top of this it gave us the CO2 problem and clear climate-change – both avoidable if we refrain from using fossil fuels.
ERGO: Working the land revives the villages and provides us with what we need. Searching ways to obtain products out of fossil deposits, destroys the land, the population living on the land, and eventually the whole economy, because of the way it effects the environment, the social and economic development of the State, and the security of the people who lose their direct relationship to the land.
What political party will have the courage to put a return to a land policy of growth on its election banner?
Mr. Eberhardt brought to show the new Renaud “Twizy” small two-seater electric vehicle.
Next Solar Table meeting will be Thursday, June 20, 2013, same location, 18:00 pm (6PM)
THE TOPIC: RENEWABLE PRIMARY MATERIALS – “NAWAROS” – (“Nachwachsende Rohstoffe”).
Really – You can’t hit 400 ppm CO2 and still think “all of the above” is a rationale for energy strategy.
A lot has happened in the last week. The Earth hit the 400 parts per million CO2 threshold for the first time in human history. Scientists tell us this is bad news if we want to prevent runaway climate change. “If we continue to burn fossil fuels at accelerating rates, if we continue with business as usual, we will cross the 450 parts per million limit in a matter of maybe a couple decades,” scientist Michael Mann told Democracy Now! “We believe that with that amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we commit to what can truly be described as dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate.”
May 17, 2013 | from Tara Lohan on AlterNet
If you didn’t know this already, we should be listening to Mann and to other scientists. I thought this was settled a long time ago, but someone keeps giving print space to climate deniers, so a new survey of 12,000 peer-reviewed studies on the climate was just completed and the not-so-shocking conclusion was this, as Mother Nature Network reports:
Published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the analysis shows an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that humans are a key contributor to climate change, while a “vanishingly small proportion” defy this consensus. Most of the climate papers didn’t specifically address humanity’s involvement — likely because it’s considered a given in scientific circles, the survey’s authors point out — but of the 4,014 that did, 3,896 shared the mainstream outlook that people are largely to blame.
In light of this news, it makes it even more infuriating to see that the Obama administration has spent the week prostrating to the fossil fuel lobby. Here are four disturbing things the administration’s been up to.
1. Moniz Hearts Fracking
Obama tapped nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and the Senate gave a big thumbs-up to Moniz on Thursday. Many environmental groups had concerns that Moniz was too pro-fracking, and those concerns are clearly warranted. Moniz’s first order of business Friday was to clear the way for 20 years of liquified natural gas exports via Freeport LNG Terminal on Quintana Island, Texas.
Of course, we’ve already been sold the story that we’re suposed to frack the crap out of the country in the name of energy security, but we knew all along it was for industry profit, right? Brad Jacobson recently detailed for AlterNet about how Congress members are clamoring for export plans to be fast-tracked — although what Americans will get out of the deal
will be higher gas prices and less energy security.
2. Thanks for Nothing, Sally
While the nomination of Moniz disappointed many environmentalists, some were cheered by REI exec Sally Jewell taking over the Interior Department. Those same folks might not be cheering after Jewell announced the Bureau of Land Management’s newest regulations (or lack thereof) for fracking on our public lands.
As Sierra Club’s Michael Brune reported Friday:
The new rules are disappointing for many reasons: Drillers won’t be required to disclose what chemicals they’re using, there is no requirement for baseline water testing, and there are no setback requirements to govern how close to homes and schools drilling can happen. Once again, though, the policy documents an even bigger failure to grasp a fundamental principle: If we’re serious about the climate crisis, then the last thing we should be doing is opening up still more federal land to drilling and fracking for fossil fuels.
3. No Time for Farmers
The group Bold Nebraska reported this week that Obama turned down an invitation to hear from Nebraska farmers and ranchers about their concerns that the Keystone XL pipeline could destroy their livelihoods. Of course, the President is a busy guy, right? And besides, the White House said he was not “taking any meetings on the pipeline.”
Or is he? The group writes:
Bold Nebraska was therefore surprised the President is meeting with staff at Ellicott Dredges, a company that just testified in Congress in support of Keystone XL and makes equipment that creates the tailing ponds, which are massive bodies of polluted water and a byproduct of the tar sands mining process.
“I simply do not understand why President Obama can find the time to visit a company that helps hold 12 million liters of toxic tar sands water but cannot find the time to visit ranchers who put over $12 billion of Nebraska-grown food on Americans’ dinner tables every year,” said Meghan Hammond, a young farmer whose family land is at risk with the current route in Nebraska.
4. Who Needs the Arctic? (Hint: We Do)
Subhankar Banerjee, a photographer and longtime Arctic activist, was recently appalled by a new report from the Obama administration on the future of the Arctic. And the rest of us should be, too. Banerjee writes about the report:
“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents…” President Obama hides his excitement for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean by carefully choosing the euphemism—“economic opportunities.”
In page 7 the true intent of the report is finally revealed: “The region holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs.”
Of course the report mentions protecting the environment, but gives no specific details.
We know that Obama talks a good talk about climate protection, but his second term has proven thus far that he’s completely out of touch with reality. You can’t hit 400 ppm CO2 and still think “all of the above” is a rationale energy strategy.
UN Internship Being Auctioned For Over $20,000 Online, Is Pay to Play OK?
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 1, updated 7:59 pm — They say a sucker is born every minute, but this takes the cake. Someone has bid over $20,000 for an unpaid six week “internship at the UN in New York City working for the UN-NGO Committee on Human Rights.” Click here.
What will the UN say about a position in its “august” hall being auctioned off? This UN has put up with many conflicts of interest, for example envoy Tony Blair being paid $11 million by Kazakhstan.
By giving the first question only to UN Correspondents Association who pay $70 dues, the UN has allowed a “pay to question” system. But this?
It’s on the website “CharityBuzz,” to raise funds for the “RFK Young Leaders.” It is a new low.
Bids close May 14.So you can still bid for it!
Update of 7:59 pm: the UN finally came back (for now) with this:
Subject: Re: Your question today
From: UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Wed, May 1, 2013 at 7:53 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Internships at the United Nations are not for sale and cannot be put up for auction. We are trying to find out the details of how this came about and have contacted ‘charitybuzz.com
After ICP Exposes Sale of UN Internship at UN for $20,000, UN Contacts CharityBuzz
By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, May 1 — What does the UN do when it is shown that an internship at the UN is being sold, online, for more than $20,000?
First it jests, then it asks. But the position remains for sale, with bids open until May 14, here.
On the morning of May 1, Inner City Press exposed a “bid over $20,000 for an unpaid six week ‘internship at the UN in New York City working for the UN-NGO Committee on Human Rights’… This UN has put up with many conflicts of interest, for example envoy Tony Blair being paid $11 million by Kazakhstan. By given the first question only to UN Correspondents Association who pay $70 dues, the UN has allowed a ‘pay to question’ system. But this?”
After publishing this article, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky at the May 1 noon briefing (video here, from Minute 13:42)
Inner City Press: there is a UN internship that’s being auctioned off online. I am not assuming that you’d know of this, but I have seen it, I have written an article about it –
Spokesperson Nesirky : Well, you want it? You want it or something?
Inner City Press: No, no, not at all, I wanted to know if it is legal. They are saying that people should pay $22,000 to work in the UN, it’s for the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, for six weeks. They are auctioning it off openly to benefit something called the RFK Young Leaders Foundation. But, it seems to smack of… it says, you’ll learn how the UN really works. I am wondering if the UN is comfortable with positions inside the building being sold for money online.
Spokesperson Nesirky: I’ll have to look into that; I am not aware of that particular unusual story, Matthew. But, I am happy to look into it.
Inner City Press: Thank you.
Throughout the afternoon, Inner City Press received responses from all over. But from the UN Spokesperson, nothing until after 7:30 pm:
Subject: Re: Your question today
From: UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Wed, May 1, 2013 at 7:53 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Internships at the United Nations are not for sale and cannot be put up for auction. We are trying to find out the details of how this came about and have contacted ‘charitybuzz.com’
Well, that’s something. But RFK’s Michael Sandel was asked; later, Inner City Press asked the RFK Center’s Sierra Ewert:
“I am a journalist who covered the UN; this morning I wrote a story, then asked the UN a question, about the RFK Center’s RFK Young Leaders role in the auctioning off of a “UN internship” for over $20,000 on CharityBuzz.com. I want to ask you, on deadline, what the RFK Center’s knowledge of, involvement in, and position on this auctioning off of an internship at the UN is. Please respond ASAP.”
After ICP Asks of Sale of Internship AT UN, UN SpinsIt’s Not a UN Internship
Inner City Press: people should pay $22,000 to work in the UN, it’s for the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, for six weeks. They are auctioning it off openly to benefit something called the RFK Young Leaders Foundation. It says, you’ll learn how the UN really works…. I have written an article about it… I am wondering if the UN is comfortable with positions inside the building being sold for money online.
Spokesperson Nesirky: I’ll have to look into that; I am not aware of that particular unusual story, Matthew. [Video here, at 13:42]
Nearly eight hours later after some others jumped on that story if only on Twitter, some far away giving credit or hat tips and some closer at hand troublingly not, the UN sent Inner City Press this answer:
Subject: Re: Your question today
From: UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Wed, May 1, 2013 at 7:53 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Internships at the United Nations are not for sale and cannot be put up for auction. We are trying to find out the details of how this came about and have contacted ‘charitybuzz.com’
Inner City Press immediately published this answer, in a second story noting that it had asked the RFK Center’s Sierra Ewert:
“I am a journalist who covers the UN; this morning I wrote a story, then asked the UN a question, about the RFK Center’s RFK Young Leaders role in the auctioning off of a “UN internship” for over $20,000 on CharityBuzz.com. I want to ask you, on deadline, what the RFK Center’s knowledge of, involvement in, and position on this auctioning off of an internship at the UN is. Please respond ASAP.”
The RFK Center has yet to respond; some have come to its defense, or to the defense of Bruce Knotts. But is that the point? Inner City Press put in other requests for comment.
For what it’s worth, the bidding started at $500 then got into a contest between “m.alam” and “Aygul,” with the latter the interim (Young?) leader at $22,000.
The UN, after publication of Inner City Press’ second story, sent a “further to” clarification:
“Further to the earlier email, just to add that we do not believe that the internship in question is a UN internship. As mentioned, we are trying to establish the details of this case and have contacted ‘charitybuzz.com.’”
It was at this point, using precisely this “further to” language from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson’s office, that another slowly came to the story. How did it happen?
The auctioned internship story has hit a nerve given the parallel debate about the ethics of unpaid internships; some have become aware of it through that world, and that’s good. But in the smaller world of those who cover the UN, there are troubling developments on which we have also put in questions. In the UN fUN-house it is “World Press Freedom Day;” one would expect answers.
T H E U P D A T E :
Internship at UN, Bid Up to $26,000 As UN Can’t or Won’t Act on Auction.
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 3 — Now the UN insists its Office of Legal Affairs is working hard on the “unusual” auction, now for $22,000, of a “internship at the UN.” But how can it be that the UN and OLA have accomplished nothing? Inner City Press first wrote about this on the morning of May 1 and asked about it at that day’s noon briefing.
Since then Inner City Press reported that a bidder named “Aygul” was ahead, bidding $22,000. The RFK Center, for which the auction is being conducted, has not provided any explanation.
And alongside Inner City Press’ May 3 noon briefing questions, the bidding on the “internship in the UN building” went higher, with a bid by “m. alam” for $26,000.From the UN’s May 3 transcript:
Inner City Press: On this internship question, I am assuming that when you have more you will say more, but yesterday I was saying, that they could contact NGO, and I am looking again at this page. It seems pretty straightforward that an NGO that is accredited to the UN shouldn’t be offering an internship at the UN for $22,000; and the bidding is still open. So, does the UN intend to somehow take action on this while the bidding is open? Can the person who is currently bidding $22,000 actually enter the UN as an intern under the terms that were offered?
Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Matthew, we have said very clearly that internships at the United Nations are not for sale. Internships at the United Nations, United Nations internships, are unpaid. I also said yesterday that the Office of Legal Affairs is looking into it, and that includes contacting a number of people. You seem to assume what is and is not being done. And I don’t think that is right to do that. They are doing their job to find out. It obviously does look unusual, to say the very least, and we are trying to find out the full details. And once we have something further to say, we will. But just to repeat that United Nations internships are simply not for sale. And furthermore, they are unpaid.
But again, this is the same UN Office of Legal Affairs which after 15 months of delay tersely ruled that all claims about the UN bringing cholera to Haiti were “not receivable.” So, no, we do not have confidence in them cleaning this up.
Observed concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have exceeded the symbolic 400 parts per million (ppm) threshold at several stations of the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Atmosphere Watch network. This is a wakeup call about the constantly rising levels of this greenhouse gas, which is released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning and other human activities and is the main driver of climate change. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years, trapping heat and causing our planet to warm further, impacting on all aspects of life on earth.
On May 9, 2013, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, recorded a reading of 400.03 ppm, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mauna Loa is the oldest continuous atmospheric measurement station in the world and so is widely regarded as a benchmark site in the Global Atmosphere Watch.
Several other Global Atmosphere Watch stations have also reported CO2 concentrations exceeding the 400 ppm threshold during the seasonal maximum. This occurs early in the northern hemisphere spring before vegetation growth absorbs CO 2.
The threshold was first crossed at stations in the Arctic. A monthly average value exceeding 400 ppm was registered at Barrow, Alaska, USA (71.3N) for the first time in April 2012, as well as at Alert, in Canada (82.5N). From the beginning of 2013, measured CO 2. values at another GAW Global station, in Ny-Ålesund, Norway, (at 78.9N) also exceeded 400 ppm. This threshold has now also been crossed at stations closer to the Equator. Izaña, (Canary Islands, Spain), reported daily mean values exceeding 400 ppm at the end of April 2013. This was followed by Mauna Loa, which has been carrying out measurements since 1958.
The Global Atmosphere Watch coordinates observations of CO2 and other heat-trapping gases like methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere to ensure that measurements around the world are standardized and can be compared to each other. The network spans more than 50 countries including stations high in the Alps, Andes and Himalayas, as well as in the Arctic, Antarctic and in the far South Pacific.
Carbon dioxide is the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. It is responsible for 85% of the increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – over the past decade. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing because of greenhouse gases. Radiative forcing is calculated relative to the pre-industrial level of key greenhouse gases.
According to WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 390.9 parts per million in 2011, or 140% of the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million. The pre-industrial era level represented a balance of CO2 fluxes between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased on average by 2 parts per million per year for the past 10 years.
At the current rate of increase, the global annual average CO2 concentration is set to cross the 400 ppm threshold in 2015 or 2016. www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html.-
Full WMO news release, including charts and links, is available at www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/news/documents/400ppm.final.pdf
United Against Pipelines, Forward on Climate!Tomorrow, Monday May 13th, New Yorkers will march and rally to greet President Obama when he attends a fundraiser in NYC––his first visit since his post-Sandy inspection. In his Inaugural Address just a few months ago, Obama promised “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Yet he continues to promote an “All of the above” energy policy that includes coal, tar sands, and fracked shale gas.
Join us if you stand against fossil fuel pipelines, against fracking, against tar sands, and FOR a country powered by wind, water and solar.
Gather in Bryant Park starting at 5 (meet near the fountain off 6th avenue at 41st Street). Reverend Billy and his choir will lead us off with a rousing blessing and song. We’ll begin to march at 5:30, then rally in front of the Waldorf Astoria at 6:30.
If you can, please wear yellow and orange (the colors of Occupy Sandy) to demonstrate your support for a clean energy future. act.350.org/signup/NYC_Unites_Against_Pipelines/.
Event Partners: 350 NYC, 350 NJ, 350.org, Brooklyn For Peace, Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP), CREDO, CUNY Divest, Food & Water Watch, Global Kids Inc., Green Party of NY, Human Impacts Institute, NYC Friends of Clearwater, NYU Divest, Occupy the Pipeline, Occupy Sandy, Restore the Rock, Sane Energy Project, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club National, United for Action, World Can’t Wait, WESPAC, YANA (You Are Never Alone).
Bollards are too much with us, but they just keep coming.They march on Washington’s lovely landscape, one by one. Who even knew what a bollard was a dozen years ago? They are the best symbol for what ails us Americans in the 21st century — which, in my view, has pretty much been a flop so far.
After Sept. 11, 2001, green, gray and black steel posts sprang up on our sidewalks. Three feet tall, they stand in militaristic lines outside government buildings, often near street curbs, to deter car bombers. Boston, Baltimore and San Francisco, similar cities to the District, put up bollards by some public architecture, but not in such overwhelming numbers, and the security posts don’t rule. In the District, seat of the federal government and national cultural treasures, they are the answer to everything. The advance came with no public process, or apparent restraint, and it can be counted as a liberty we lost after the terrorist attacks. We lost the right to walk around our most meaningful outdoor places like free people, without bumping into a bollard. Hundreds of them stand sentry “guarding” the Capitol grounds, the White House, the Supreme Court, you name it. Washington National Cathedral and Union Station, spectacular gathering spaces of the same vintage, also sport them. We pay a price for bollards that no doubt runs well into the millions of dollars, but I’m not talking about that. How much they aid public safety is up in the air. They wouldn’t prevent another air attack. That’s not really the problem, either. Bollards separate our stately structures, scenic surroundings and majestic memorials. These are not just flaws in once-seamless sightlines. They are insults to democracy, you and me. Call them un-American for helping to change us into strangers to one another. They encourage everyone to be afraid, suspicious and closed to others passing by. They create a suggestion of danger that’s not worth it at the end of the day. Why let the likes of Mohamed Atta take trust and optimism away from us?
Look at the landscape design of the Capitol gardens and grounds, created by the masterful Frederick Law Olmsted after the Civil War. He envisioned the approach to the dome of democracy as flowing, transparent and open to all. Just as the dialogue of democracy represents all comers as equals in the public square.
Olmsted, the famous Central Park landscape architect, put the terrace and stairs on the West Front of the Capitol to fuse it with its setting. That also expanded the Capitol’s access in an elegant exterior form. Verandas always make a house or building seem more smiling and friendly.
In other words, Olmsted’s message spoke: “Come in! You are part of this place.” The opposite is true now. The bollards don’t beckon and invite you in — as a citizen — to witness the noisy marketplace of ideas and enjoy the grandeur of the Capitol Rotunda art.
Rather, they say: “Keep out!” Along with stumpy bollards, the Capitol police’s heavy presence — backed up by guardhouses and a hazardous material rescue truck — darkens the everyday experience. The Olmsted plan’s lawns and trees have notably diminished since Sept. 11.
The northeast corner of First and Constitution avenues, on the Senate side, used to be an inspiring vista to the Capitol. Now it feels like the edge of a fortress. Nearby, the Supreme Court looks even worse. Bollards clash with the bright white marble stairs to the courthouse door, which is no longer a public entrance.
Then there’s the Treasury and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is closed off to traffic, with bollards working overtime. Such a wide-open street is not as ideal as it seems for creating civic order. On a sunny spring afternoon, about 25 Marines (off-duty) were doing a grueling “Goruck challenge” wearing camouflage. This required one guy to carry another on his back while sweating, grunting and swearing in view of the Treasury statues and tourists.
Little by little, bollards are coarsening our conduct, and soon schoolchildren won’t know America any other way. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombs, it’s clear that bollards would not have stopped the Tsarnaev brothers. As Boston amply demonstrated, the best preparedness comes from quick thinking and coordinated actions by civilians, police, fire and medical personnel.
Washington, meanwhile, may be lulled into a false sense of security with our unsightly bollards.
Jamie Stiehm is a Creators Syndicate columnist.
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, spoke yesterday, May 10, 2013, during a discussion on counter-terrorism at the UN Security Council.
In his remarks, Ambassador Prosor compared terrorism to a “growth industry,” with a “business development arm” and a “human resources division.”
·“Chapter Seven of the United Nations Charter sets out the Security Council’s powers to maintain peace. There is no greater threat to international stability than those who use fundamentalism to advance their personal ideologies and agendas.
It is time for the international community to unite and put terrorism out of business. The Security Council must further utilize Chapter Seven of the Charter to force terrorist groups to file for Chapter Seven bankruptcy. The failure to do so would be nothing less than moral bankruptcy.”
He also said:
·“We face the frightening possibility that Hezbollah could soon get its hands on Syria’s vast stockpiles of chemical weapons. The threat of game-changing weapons reaching Hezbollah is substantiated by Nasrallah himself, who yesterday said – and one should listen
very carefully – I quote, ‘Syria will give the resistance special weapons it never had before.’ This Council must act today, not tomorrow. We will not allow Hezbollah – and I’d like to emphasize this clearly – to test our resolve,” the Ambassador said.
The relation between the above and a passive defense-that-is-not – is the need to tackle the scourge of extremism in Islamic hatred to everything Western is that passivity does not work. Even those that contend that the West did some terrible things to the Islamic parts of the World in the past, do not have the right to ask for redress by perpetuating indiscriminate killings now.
The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.
Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.
The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.
“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.
Virtually every automobile ride, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of a light switch adds carbon dioxide to the air, and relatively little money is being spent to find and deploy alternative technologies.
China is now the largest emitter, but Americans have been consuming fossil fuels extensively for far longer, and experts say the United States is more responsible than any other nation for the high level.
The new measurement came from analyzers atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide, or CO2. Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.
Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa.
But the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time in the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday. The two monitoring programs use slightly different protocols; NOAA reported an average for the period of 400.03 parts per million, while Scripps reported 400.08.
Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle, and the level will dip below 400 this summer as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But experts say that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.
“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.
From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.
For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.
Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher.
Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way.
“It takes a long time to melt ice, but we’re doing it,” Dr. Keeling said. “It’s scary.”
Dr. Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, began carbon dioxide measurements on Mauna Loa and at other locations in the late 1950s. The elder Dr. Keeling found a level in the air then of about 315 parts per million — meaning that if a person had filled a million quart jars with air, about 315 quart jars of carbon dioxide would have been mixed in.
His analysis revealed a relentless, long-term increase superimposed on the seasonal cycle, a trend that was dubbed the Keeling Curve.
Countries have adopted an official target to limit the damage from global warming, with 450 parts per million seen as the maximum level compatible with that goal. “Unless things slow down, we’ll probably get there in well under 25 years,” Ralph Keeling said.
Yet many countries, including China and the United States, have refused to adopt binding national targets. Scientists say that unless far greater efforts are made soon, the goal of limiting the warming will become impossible without severe economic disruption.
“If you start turning the Titanic long before you hit the iceberg, you can go clear without even spilling a drink of a passenger on deck,” said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “If you wait until you’re really close, spilling a lot of drinks is the best you can hope for.”
Climate-change contrarians, who have little scientific credibility but are politically influential in Washington, point out that carbon dioxide represents only a tiny fraction of the air — as of Thursday’s reading, exactly 0.04 percent. “The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rather undramatic,” a Republican congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher, said in a Congressional hearing several years ago.
But climate scientists reject that argument, saying it is like claiming that a tiny bit of arsenic or cobra venom cannot have much effect. Research shows that even at such low levels, carbon dioxide is potent at trapping heat near the surface of the earth.
“If you’re looking to stave off climate perturbations that I don’t believe our culture is ready to adapt to, then significant reductions in CO2 emissions have to occur right away,” said Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist who studies climates of the past. “I feel like the time to do something was yesterday.”
Our website has proposed that geopolitics are headed to a new structure were it is needed to have a billion people in order to be considered a World Power. As such we proposed that besides China and India, the other World powers will be -
- an Anglo-American Block led by the US and that will include also the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and as well Mexico and Japan;
- a European Block led out of Brussels by a more united and reorganized EU and that will include Russia but not the UK;
- an Islamic Block led by Turkey or Indonesia that will stretch from Mauritania to Indonesia;
- and a block “Of the Rest” that will be led by Brazil and include, with a few exceptions based on the US led Trans-Pacific Partnership (the TPP) , Latin America, Africa, the SIDS, parts of Asia.
It is this last Block that will become the new Third World – that is the Sixth World of those outside the China, India, US, EU, and Islamic Blocks.
We see the recent news of Brazil defeating Mexico for the leadership of the WTO as an important step in above direction.
Brazil Wins Leadership of the World Trade Organization
Brazilian Roberto Azevêdo has been chosen over Mexican candidate Herminio Blanco as the newest director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on May 7. El Palenque, AnimalPolitico’s debate forum for experts, discusses the effects this win will have on Mexican diplomacy, Brazil’s role in trade liberalization, and the prominence of the BRICS on the world stage. Azevêdo will be the first Latin American to head the WTO.
But there is still a question to be answered: Who won? The man or the country?
Between Azevêdo and Blanco, there may not be much to choose. Both have impressive credentials. Azevêdo, a career diplomat in one of the world’s most polished diplomatic services, has been Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO since 2008. He knows the organisation inside out. Blanco is a businessman steeped in trade, a trade consultant who was formerly Mexico’s trade minister and its chief negotiator during preparation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
If the race was between two technocrats, it must have been a photo finish.
But what if the WTO members voted for the country, not the man? Then, it was a matter of chalk and cheese. Disgruntled Mexicans – whose pride will have taken a severe knock – will call this a victory of protectionism over free trade.
It will also be a victory of the developing world over the developed one.
Mexico, which has free trade agreements with 44 different countries, is the new poster child of developed world policies at work in the developing world. Brazil has free trade agreements with nobody, and has shown a tendency to renegotiate what agreements it does have as soon as they become inconvenient – not least its auto agreement with Mexico. Many developing countries – in Africa and Asia as well as in Latin America – will have felt the Brazilian was much more likely to protect their fledgling manufacturers and farmers than was the Mexican. Many of those countries, especially in Africa, already have closer ties with Brazil than they do with Mexico.
“I, as candidate and as director of the WTO will not be representing Brazil,” Azevedo told Reuters in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“I made it to the final round in the election with those complaints on the table, and that doesn’t change things. It means there is an understanding between WTO members that the candidate must be independent from his country and be evaluated according to his skills.”
Asked if he considered Brazil was protectionist, he declined to comment.
To those who say that, under Azevêdo, the WTO will lose sight of its mission to promote free trade, others will reply that it never had one in the first place.
But Tuesday’s decision will make a big difference. No matter how pure a technocrat he is, Azevêdo will find it hard to fend off the influence of Brasília. It was the Brazilian that won, and not the Mexican.
SO, WE WILL SAY – THE FT AGREE WITH OUR POINT OF VIEW THAT THE US CANDIDATE – MEXICO – LOST TO THE CANDIDATE OF THE THIRD WORLD – THAT IS OUR TRUE SIXTH WORLD – WHO WILL STAND UP TO THE BIGGER BOYS OF THE OTHER FIVE WORLDS – SPECIFICALLY THE US – WHO BLATANTLY USE THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FOR THEIR OWN GOOD – EXCLUSIVELY!!!
FURTHER NEWS OF RELEVANCE TO THE NEW WORLD IN THE MAKING:
Clinton Global Initiative to Launch Latin America Program in Rio
Former President Bill Clinton announced on May 6 that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) would be expanding to Latin America in December 2013, with its first meeting set to launch in Rio de Janeiro. He was joined by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes in making the announcement at the mid-year meeting for his annual conference.
Brazil Starts Small Business Ministry
President Dilma Rousseff announced the start of a small business ministry on May 6, saying that government banks will provide up to $7,500 to small businesses in 2013 and will reduce the public loan interest rate from 8 percent to 5 percent beginning on May 31. “The question of small business is indispensable for the country’s future and present,” said Rousseff. Brazil’s estimated 6 million micro and small businesses accounted for 40 percent of the country’s 15 million new jobs from 2001 to 2011.
Cuba to Send 6,000 Doctors to Brazil
Brazil plans to hire approximately 6,000 Cuban doctors to work in the country’s rural areas, said Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota on May 6. The Federal Medical Council–a Brazilian doctor’s organization–questioned the island nation’s medical qualifications, but Patriota called Cuba “very proficient in the areas of medicine, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology.” President Dilma Rousseff began the talks in January 2012, and both countries are currently consulting with the Pan American Health Organization to move forward.
A Bright Outlook for Latin American Economies?
The International Monetary Fund’s May 2013 Regional Economic Outlook predicts Latin America’s growth to increase approximately 3.5 percent by the end of the year. But, in an article for The Huffington Post, Director for the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department Alejandro Werner questions whether countries in the region will be able to “adjust policies to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability” after the near-future external benefits, such as easy external financing and high commodity prices, begin to decline.
Volcanoes and Geysers Could Fuel Chilean Energy
Chile will partner with New Zealand to develop its deep exploration drilling and to develop its geothermal energy production. Chile is home to 20 percent of the world’s active volcanoes, which can be harnessed for geothermal energy. However, only 5 percent of the country’s electrical power is attributed to renewable energy resources, reports IPS News.
The Pacific Alliance Creates a Legislative Committee
Heads of Congress from Pacific Alliance members Chile, Colombia, México, and Perú signed an accord to form a Pacific Alliance Inter-Parliamentary Committee on May 6, reportsLa República. The committee would serve as the legislative arm of the Alliance by developing a framework to approve free trade agreements and distribution of goods, services, and capital under the Alliance. The committee will be officially presented to the Alliance at a legislative session in Chile in June.
Washington to Host Chilean and Peruvian Presidents
Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera and Peru’s President Ollanta Humala will visit Washington D.C. in June to discuss economic relations with President Obama. Piñera’s visit will take place on June 4, and Humala will visit one week later on June 11. The agenda will likely touch on negotiations with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as all three countries hope to develop closer economic ties to Asian markets.
Obstacles to Sustainability at Centre of High-level discussions at UN Economic and Social Council Monday, 13 May from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDTECOSOC Chamber at UN Headquarters
Concerned that implementation of sustainable development is seriously lagging, world leaders at Rio+20 committed to fostering and implementing sustainable development at all levels. To this end, the Economic and Social Council is taking action to fulfill its integration mandate.
The Council is gathering a wide range of senior officials and civil society representatives to examine how science, technology and innovation can contribute to the integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development for triple-win solutions in the energy and agriculture sectors at the upcoming ECOSOC Integration Meeting on 13 May. The theme is: Achieving sustainable development: Integrating the social, economic and environmental dimensions. The dialogue aims to identify triple-win solutions that can emerge from a sustainable development approach, as well as measures to strengthen the science-policy interface. The dialogue will also help identify steps needed for the Council and its subsidiary bodies to effectively promote the integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The outcome of the discussion will be considered by ministers when they meet for the Annual Ministerial Review in Geneva in July. The event is open to the press.But will it be open to the truly interested press? Those affiliated with the topic of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT that for years were excluded from what the UN defined as accredited media? We can hope only that the present leader of the DPI will establish a new policy to help the evolving efforts to turn the up to now useless ECOSOC into the intended Commission or Council for Sustainability – or what the Sustainable Development Commission was intended for but never became. More information: For a full list of speakers, visit: www.un.org/en/ecosoc/we/pdf/programme.pdf For more background information, visit: www.un.org/en/ecosoc/we/pdf/concept_note_2013.pdf Media contact: Daniel Shepard, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 212-963-9495 – UN Department of Public Information Paul Simon, email@example.com, +1 917-367-5027 – UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
2013 Economic and Social Council
Integration MeetingAchieving sustainable development: Integrating the
social, economic and environmental dimensions
Ø H.E. Ambassador Néstor Osorio, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council Ø Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations Ø Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Session 1: Policy convergence for sustainable development
0:25 a.m. – 01:00 p.m.
Moderator: Mr. Adnan Z. Amin, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Keynote speech: Ø Mr. José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (via video link) Panellists: Ø H.E. Mr. Michael Anderson, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for UN Development Goals, United Kingdom Ø H.E. Ms. Sus Ulbæk, Ambassador, Global Challenges, Global Green Growth Forum (3GF), Denmark (via video link) Ø Ms. Gisela Alonso, President, the Cuban Agency of Environment, Cuba (tbc) Ø Mr. Ian Noble, Lead Scientist, Global Adaptation Institute, Washington D.C. Ø Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Chairperson, United Nations Committee for Development Policy Discussant: Ø Ms. Jan McAlpine, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Discussion questions: · What are the potential short-term policy choices and longer-term gains inherent in an approach that balances and integrates the three dimensions of sustainable development? · What are necessary elements for achieving policy coherence for the balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development?
Session 2: Scaling up for sustainable development
03:00 p.m. – 05:50 p.m.
Moderator: Ø Mr. Robert C. Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, United Nations Keynote speech: Ø Mr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General, UNIDO (via video link) Panellists: Ø H.E. Mr. Kenred Dorsett, Minister of Environment and Housing, The Bahamas (TBC) Ø Ms. Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capitalism Ø Mr. Gary Lawrence, Corporate Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, AECOM Ø Mr. Philip Dobie, Senior Fellow, World Agroforestry Centre Discussant: Ø Mr. Felix Dodds, Former Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future Discussion questions: · How do science, technology and innovation (STI) intersect with sustainable development and be better used to promote triple-win solutions? · What kind of institutional framework and governance arrangements are needed for the successful integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development at the regional and country levels? · What specific steps are needed for ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies to effectively promote a balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development? Closing plenary
05:50 p.m. – 06:00 p.m.
Closing remarks: Ø Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Ø H.E. Ambassador Néstor Osorio, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council
This website argued for years that Turkey could have enhanced its world position by allowing enough slack to its own Kurds establishing itself as a bi-National State – Turkish-Kurdish and absorb the Kurdish areas of Iraq, Iran, Syria, as well. They did not – and now Erdogan tries to go for what he thinks is within his reach.
PKK Challenges Barzani
In Iraqi Kurdistan.
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters talk to each other as they stand guard at the Kandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkish border in Sulaimaniya, 330 km (205 miles) northeast of Baghdad March 24, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)
While Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) pursues the cease-fire plan with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the PKK is also involved in a subtle power struggle across Turkey’s borders. This struggle is being played out by the PKK’s efforts to check the influence of Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, over leadership of the Kurds. By engaging in the Kurdistan Region’s messy pre-election politics and supporting the opposition Change Movement (Goran), the PKK is attempting to stifle a third mandate for Barzani, while stirring local criticism of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). These PKK interventions are unlikely to alter the status quo in the region — at least for the forthcoming elections — however; they are fueling political fragmentation and creating additional challenges to regional stability.
Indeed, rivalries between the PKK and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are nothing new. During the Iraqi Kurdish civil war of the 1990s, the PKK and KDP engaged in armed conflict against each other, as well as the KDP against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
The Ocalan-Barzani competition re-emerged after the Syrian civil war broke out, and as different Syrian Kurdish groups backed by the PKK and its affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) vied for power with the KDP-supported Kurdish National Council. This rivalry continues with Barzani tied to Turkey and attempting to court Syrian Kurdish youth groups and independents away from PYD influence.
Still, Barzani and Ocalan reached a tacit agreement after Ocalan’s imprisonment in 1999, which allowed the PKK to relocate in the Kandil Mountains in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The KRG also tolerates the presence of thousands of PKK supporters in the Makhmour Camp, where they have been residing since 1994 as political refugees. Moreover, despite the rapprochement between Erbil and Ankara, Barzani has affirmed that “the period of Kurds killing Kurds is over” and that the KRG Peshmerga would not engage militarily against the PKK or any other Kurdish group. These efforts have led to a mutually peaceful coexistence between the KDP and PKK, despite the distinctly different ideologies and regional relationships each has developed, particularly with Ankara.
The last six months, however, have seen a shift in PKK tactics inside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Whereas the PKK leader in Kandil, Murat Karaliyan, had previously indicated his willingness to work with Barzani in 2009, he now opposes electing him to a third term as president. The PKK is using its networks and social media to incite local opposition against Barzani and the Iraqi Kurdish parties. For instance, it is encouraging local populations in the Iraqi Kurdish-Iranian border town of Halabja to criticize the KRG and Barzani for lack of services. One of the PKK websites has inflammatory photos and remarks about Barzani’s leadership, as well as other KRG political party leaders.
This shift reflects a reaction to Barzani’s growing power — including his close ties to Erdogan — and his claims or ambitions to become a leader of all the Kurds, expressed in Kurdish as “president of Kurdistan,” which the PKK rejects.
More specifically, the PKK shift coincides with the illness of Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq and leader of the PUK, which has further weakened the PUK and limited any serious competition for the KDP and Barzani’s power. In fact, the rump of the PUK — known as the “Gang of Four” — may have called for a separate list in the planned September elections to reflect its differences and attempts to challenge the KDP. Yet the PUK leadership continues to support and depend upon Barzani as president, particularly as a financial patron.
This is why the PKK is now calling for a “Kurdistan supported by Goran.” Goran remains the only secular Kurdish nationalist party that seeks to remove Barzani from office while pressing for a parliamentary and not presidential system for the region. Goran also has indicated its support for the PKK and affirmed the PYD as the representative of the Kurds in Syria, posing another direct challenge to Barzani and the KDP. The PKK-Goran alliance also is based on shared concerns about Turkey’s regional power and the need to check Erdogan’s influence over Iraqi Kurds and in Syria.
It is unlikely that the PKK will weaken the deeply rooted patronage networks inside the Kurdistan Region that will assure Barzani power and KDP and PUK influence for years to come. Many people, particularly the youth, may support the PKK as true Kurdish nationalists and back Goran; however, they also have been co-opted by the increasingly generous handouts and comfortable lifestyles made available to them by the KRG in recent years. Many others are disinterested in politics altogether or unwilling to pay the consequences of being linked to the opposition.
Still, PKK engagement in Iraqi Kurdish politics matters because it reveals the growing complexity of the trans-border Kurdish problem and the PKK’s political agenda to change the status quo. This challenge will not only be about advancing Kurdish nationalist rights in different states, but clarifying who will represent Kurdish interests and what form these nationalist interests should take. Whatever the outcome, these struggles will likely create a wide opening for more deal-making between Kurdish groups and regional states, keeping the Kurdish nationalist movement fragmented from within and across borders.
Denise Natali holds the Minerva Chair at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), National Defense University where she specializes in Iraq, regional energy issues and the Kurdish problem. The views expressed are her own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the US government.
Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens. The Sunni and Shia factions, battling for supremacy in the Middle East, have locked horns in the heart of the Levant, where the Shia-affiliated Alawite sect has ruled a majority Sunni nation for decades.
Some see it through a social prism. As they did in Tunis with Muhammad Bouazizi — an honest man who couldn’t make an honest living in this corruption-ridden part of the world — the social protests that sparked the war in Syria started in the poor and disenfranchised parts of the country.
Others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism.
Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.
Over the past 60 years, the population in the Middle East has twice doubled itself, said Sofer, the head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group and a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, where today he heads the National Defense College Research Center. “There is no example of this anywhere else on earth,” he said of the population increase. Couple that with Syria’s water scarcity, he said, “and as a geographer it was clear to me that a conflict would erupt.”
The Pentagon cautiously agrees with this thesis. In February the Department of Defense released a “climate-change adaptation roadmap.” While the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” Predominantly the paper is concerned with the effects of rising seas and melting arctic permafrost on US military installations. The Middle East is not mentioned by name.
But Sofer and Anton Berkovsky, who together compiled the research work of students at the National Defense College and released a geo-strategic paper on Syria earlier in the year, believe that water scarcity played a significant role in the onset of the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring, and that it may help re-shape the strategic bonds and interests of the region as regimes teeter and borders blur. Sofer also believes that a “Pax Climactica” is within reach if regional leaders would only, for a short while, forsake their natural inclinations to wake up in the morning and seek to do harm.
Syria is 85 percent desert or semi-arid country. But it has several significant waterways. The Euphrates runs in a south-easterly direction through the center of the country to Iraq. The Tigris runs southeast, tracing a short part along Syria’s border with Turkey before flowing into Iraq. And, aside from several lesser rivers that flow southwest through Lebanon to the Mediterranean, Syria has an estimated four to five billion cubic meters of water in its underground aquifers.
From 2007-2008, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities. The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.
For these reasons the heart of the country was once an oasis. For 5,000 years, Damascus was famous for its agriculture and its dried fruit. Since 1950, however, the population has increased sevenfold in Syria, to 22 million, and Turkey, in an age of scarcity, has seized much of the water that once flowed south into Syria.
“They’ve been choking them,” Sofer said, noting that Turkey annually takes half of the available 30 billion cubic meters of water in the Euphrates. This limits Syria’s water supply and hinders its ability to generate hydroelectricity.
In 2007, after years of population growth and institutional economic stagnation, several dry years descended on Syria. Farmers began to leave their villages and head toward the capital. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers – Sofer calls them “climate refugees” – relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities.
The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.
This, along with over one million refugees from the Iraq war and, among other challenges, borders that contain a dizzying array of religions and ethnicities, set the stage for the civil war.
Tellingly, it broke out in the regions most parched — “in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.”
Professor Eyal Zisser, one of Israel’s top scholars of Syria, agreed that the drought played a significant role in the onset of the war. “Without doubt it is part of the issue,” he said. Zisser did not believe that water was the central issue that inflamed Syria but rather “the match that set the field of thorns on fire.”
Rebel troops transporting two women to safety along the Orontes River, which has shrunk in recent years and grown increasingly saline (Photo credit: CC BY FreedomHouse)
Since that fire began to rage in March 2011, the course of the battles has been partially dictated by a different sort of logic, not environmental in nature. “Assad is butchering his way west,” Sofer said. He believes the president will eventually have to retreat from the capital and therefore has focused his efforts on Homs and other cities and towns that lie between Damascus and the Alawite regions near the coast, cutting himself an escape route.
Sofer and Berkovsky envision several scenarios for Syria. Among them: Assad puts down the rebellion and remains in power; Assad abdicates and a Sunni majority seizes control; Assad abdicates and no central power is able to assert control. The most likely scenario, Sofer said, was that the Syrian dictator would eventually flee to Tehran. But he preferred to avoid that sort of micro-conjecture and to focus on the regional effects of population growth and water scarcity and the manner in which that ominous mix might shape the future of the region.
Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. Sofer published a paper in July where he laid out the grim environmental reality of the region and argued that, as in Syria, the conflicts bedeviling the region were not about climate issues but were deeply influenced by them.
Egypt, Sofer wrote, faces severe repercussions from climate change. Even a slight rise in the level of the sea – just half a meter – would salinize the Nile Delta aquifers and force three million people out of the city of Alexandria. In the more distant future, as the North Sea melts, the Suez Canal could decline in importance. More immediately, and of greater significance to Israel, he wrote that Egypt, faced with a water shortage, would likely grow more militant over the coming years. But he felt the militancy would be directed south, toward South Sudan and Ethiopia and other nations competing for the waters of the Nile, and not north toward the Levant.
The Nile River, the lifeblood of Egypt’s 82 million people (Photo credit: CC BY Simona Scolari, Flickr)
As proof that this pivot has already begun, Sofer pointed to Abu-Simbel, near the border with Sudan. There the state has converted a civilian airport into a military one. “The conclusion to be drawn from this is simple and unequivocal,” he wrote. “Egypt today represents a military threat to the southern nations of the Nile and not the Zionist state to the east.”
The Sinai Peninsula, already quite lawless, will only get worse, perhaps to the point of secession, he and Berkovsky wrote. Local Bedouin will have difficulty raising animals in the region and will turn, to an even greater degree, to smuggling material and people along a route established in the Bronze Age, through Sinai to Asia and Europe.
Syria, even if the war were swiftly resolved, is “on the cusp of catastrophe.” Jordan, too, is in dire need of water. And Gaza, like Syria, has been battered by unchecked drilling. The day after Israel left under the Oslo Accords, he said, the Palestinian Authority and other actors began digging 500 wells along the coastal aquifer even though Israel had warned them of the dangers. “Today there are around 4,000 of them and no more ground water. It’s over. There’s no fooling around with this stuff,” he said.
Only the two most stable states in the region – Israel and Turkey – have ample water.
Turkey is the sole Middle Eastern nation blessed with plentiful water sources. Ankara’s control of the Tigris and the Euphrates, among other rivers, means that Iraq and Syria, both downriver, are to a large extent dependent on Turkey for food, water and electricity. That strategic advantage, along with Turkey’s position as the bridge between the Middle East and Europe, “further serves its neo-Ottoman agenda,” Sofer said.
He envisioned an increased role for Turkey both in the Levant and, eventually, in central Asia and along the oil crossroads of the Persian Gulf, pitting it against Iran. Climate change, he conceded, has only a minor role in that future struggle for power but it is “an accelerant.”
Israel no longer suffers from drought. Desalination, conservation and sewage treatment have alleviated much of the natural scarcity. In February, the head of the Israel Water Authority, Alexander Kushnir, told the Times of Israel that the country’s water crisis has come to an end. Half of Israel’s two billion cubic meters of annual water use is generated artificially, he said, through desalination and sewage purification.
For Sofer, this self-sufficiency is an immense regional advantage. Israel could pump water east to Jenin in the West Bank and farther along to Jordan and north to Syria. International organizations could follow Israel’s example and fund regional desalination plants, which, he noted, cost less than a single day of modern full-scale war.
Instead, rather than an increase in cooperation, he feared, the region would likely witness ever more desperate competition. Sofer said his friends see him as a sort of Jeremiah. But the Middle East, he cautioned, is a region where “leaders wake up every morning and ask what can I do today to make matters worse.”
Arnon Sofer, a longtime professor at the IDF’s National Defense College, sees a link between the war in Syria and the water shortages there (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)
The following was e-mailed to us and I thought to post it because at the bottom-line it says – forget religion – that will not bring Muslims and Christians together (actually Muslims and non-Muslims) – but rather approach the issue from a common humanity direction. So, Muslim teaching will make it impossible for the Muslims to accept a different way of life as the one ordered in the Quran, but the Human side of Muslims that loosen up allows for hope.
The Boston Bombings and Understanding the Islamic Worldview Interview with Mark Durie
David Wheaton: Perhaps you watched the Boston Marathon bombings that killed four people and injured more than 200 others and wondered, “Why would two young Muslim men, who were granted political asylum in America years ago, educated in our schools, and received financial aid from U.S. taxpayers, set off two bombs in order to murder and maim as many Americans as possible?”
It’s a very good question. It has been said that, “All Muslims are not terrorists … but almost all terrorist attacks against America are committed by Muslims.”
Why is this? What is it about Islam — or perhaps about America? — that leads two young Muslims to murder the people that have actually taken them in?
Mark Durie, an Australian pastor and author of three books on Islam joins us from Australia The Christian Worldview all the way from Australia.
Many pastors are trying to find common ground between the Christian faith and Islam, for instance the document that came out a few years ago in America, A Common Word Between Us and You signed by many evangelical leaders and the leaders of Islam. Why have you focused on the critical differences and pointed out some of the negative aspects of Islam?
Mark Durie: I think we do have precious common ground with Muslims, but it’s in our humanity, not in faith.
I think it’s really important to hold love together with truth, and not to abandon one for the other, or to pit them against each other. Truth means acknowledging the differences, which are great and significant, and not glossing over them or pretending they don’t exist. When you’re dealing with a very different faith it takes an effort and care to really understand those differences. That’s been part of my work, to help people understand what seems incomprehensible, what those differences really are.
DW: The Free Republicreported on April 15, saying this, “Shortly after terror bombs exploded and murdered over 12 people at the Boston marathon – I guess that’s an incorrect number – members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah were reported to be dancing in the streets of Gaza, handing out candies to passers by. The head of an Islamic organization in Jordan, the Muslim Salafi group, said he’s ‘happy to see the horror in America’ after the bombing attacks in Boston. ‘American blood isn’t more precious than Muslim blood,’ said Mohammad al-Chalabi, who was convicted in an Al-Qa’ida-linked plot to attack US and other Western diplomatic missions in Jordan. ‘Let the Americans feel the pain we endured by their armies occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and killing our people there.’”
Reportedly some people in the Muslim world celebrated the Boston bombings. The vast majority of the Muslim world not condemn it – I know there were some select Muslims who did.
MD: I think there are certainly Muslims who regard the West and America as the enemy and rejoice in what they regard as inflicting pain and harm on their enemy. So there are some like that. I think some Muslims in American also really prefer to emphasize that Muslims are the real victims – that’s a theological theme in Islam, that Muslims are the victims – so they don’t want the attention to be taken away from that. Also some Muslims don’t want to apologize for Islam. It causes them distress to have to engage with this [incidents of Islamic terrorism] and they resent being held to account for their faith. So there’s a deeper denial sometimes, at least among Western Muslims about Islamic radicalism. All these factors sometimes make it difficult for Muslims to engage.
DW: Now the response of the parents of bombers – the mother and the father – they had this to say in the immediate aftermath of the bombing: …
[Mother here:] “What happened is a terrible thing, but I know that my kids had nothing to do this.”
[Father here:] “Somebody clearly framed them. I don’t know exactly who framed them but they did. They framed them and then they were so cowardly that they shot them dead. There are policemen like that.”
[Mother:] “They were being killed just because they were Muslims. Nothing else.”
[Interviewer:] “Do you think they’ll get a fair trial?”
[Mother:] “Only Allah knows it. I don’t know.”
DW: So that was the mother and the father of the two bombers. You could understand how parents are in denial sometimes. But it seems that there is an unbridgeable truth gap between the West and the Muslim world. For instance, whether it is just denying the patently obvious of what took place in Boston, but even on a broader scale, denial of the holocaust; or saying that 9/11 was not done by Muslims, it was an inside job; or the ‘fact’ that America is out to take over the world – that sort of thing. In your studies is there an unbridgeable truth gap between the West and the Muslim world?
MD: I think there’s an emotional world-view gap that drives the truth gap. Shame and honour are very powerful forces in Islamic culture, and there’s a desire to claim the moral high ground of being a victim. They did this to them “just because they are Muslims,” the mother of the bombers said.
“We are the victims!” one Muslim scholar was screaming on al-Jazeera, in a debate with Wafa Sultan, who is a doctor who left Islam. She had challenged him, saying, look Muslims had done some bad things, but he just began to scream at her: “We are the victims!”
This sense that “We are the victims: there’s nothing wrong with us, it is someone else’s fault”: that is what drives these wild conspiracy theories and denial of obvious and plain truth. I think underlying it is something like shame or just some sort of fear, and this creates the sense of unreality. The Muslim world is awash with bizarre conspiracy theories. There is a truth gap, but it is because of an emotional world-view gap.
DW: Chris Matthews, a politially liberal host here in America, had this to say as they were trying to find a possible reason or motivation behind these bombings.
[Clint Van Zandt, FBI Profiler:] “The pieces we don’t have Chris is “Where was their inspiration? Where did they get their guidance? Who taught them how to build the bombs? Where did they build them? These are a lot of questions.”
[Chris Matthews, interrupting and shouting over Van Zandt:] “Why is that important? Why is that important to prosecuting? Is that important to prosecuting? I mean, what difference does it make why they did if they did it? I’m being tough here but I don’t know whether, when you look at all this evidence…”
Frankly Mark, I do want to know why they did this. How much credence is there to [the claim that] Muslims conducting terrorist attacks in America is because of America’s “meddling” in the Islamic world, like that previous quote, of being involving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others will say they hate our freedom and lifestyle and they try to kill us because of that.
Contrary to what Chris Matthews just said, I really do want to know what motivates these Islamic terrorists, these two young men specifically, to do this kind of thing.
MD: Well the first thing is that it is not just Americans that are being attacked by radical Muslims. Just recently the Coptic cathedral in Cairo was attacked and someone was shot. Actually Christian minorities in Muslim countries are attacked and hated as well, so it is not just America.
The root of the problem is in the Qur’an. The Qur’an says “Fighting is obligatory for you, though you dislike it.” [Sura 2:126]. The word in Arabic for fighting means “to kill.” And it says also “I shall cast terror into the hearts of the disbelievers. Cut off their heads, and cut off their limbs.” [Sura 8:12]
There’s a stream that’s at the core of Islam that generates hatred against non-believers. Christians are being killed and attacked in Nigeria and in the Sudan, and that’s not because they are a world power or a dominant force.
There is an old Islamic doctrine that the blood of infidels is halal: it can be taken. It’s not a crime to attack a non-Muslim, and the radicals, like the Tsarnaev brothers, they are taught this sort of worldview. It’s the devaluation of the lives of non-Muslims in these radical versions of Islam that’s the real problem.
The blame-the-victim response – “it’s our fault that we’re being killed” – that’s a terrible mistake to fall into. That’s just what the terrorists want you to think – that it’s your fault.
DW: So if America weren’t involved in the Middle East, let’s say not involved in Afganistan and Iraq – let’s say still supporting Israel as an ally – these kind of things would still happen?
MD: Oh absolutely. The hostility would only increase. America stands for the freedom and the power and might of the non-Muslim world, and that’s enough to justify the jihad. You won’t get peace by withdrawing from those places. It’s not going to happen.
DW: I watched these Boston bombings and the aftermath in the media, and I thought “What are they really trying to accomplish, these two Muslim men, by just setting off two bombs and randomly killing some civilians on a street in Boston. One would think that would turn world opinion against them, but it doesn’t seem to. What do you think is trying to be accomplished? Are they trying to take over America? Obviously that’s not going to work. They can’t do it with a couple of bombs on a sidewalk in Boston.
MD: Well, there’s two reasons. One is, as the Qur’an says, to strike terror in the hearts of the enemy [Sura 8:60, see also 3:150, 8:], to condition fear in who they [the terrorists] regard as the enemy, which is non-Muslims.
And the other is, as a leading scholar in Syria [Al-Bouti see here] said in a ruling made about suicide bombings, it is permissible to do it to spite the enemy, that is to hurt them. So there’s the desire to hurt someone who is thought to be an enemy. That’s the pleasure of inflicting harm on your enemy.
DW: Mark, let’s come back to America, from the standpoint of Americans to this. Why don’t you think President Obama ever mentions the words Muslim or Islam in connection with terrorist attacks like this in Boston, when clearly the Islamic religion is the motivating force behind these Muslims doing this?
MD: For one thing he has a secular liberal view that all religions are much the same. So he denies that Islam is the reason or makes any contribution to these acts.
Furthermore he identifies with Islam – as he has explained to the Muslim world – because his father was a Muslim and he was exposed to Islamic worldview and background when he was a kid. So he is very deliberate about deflecting attention away from Islam. He has forbidden his spokespeople to make any links between Islam and terrorism. It is his deliberate policy to do that.
DW: The political left here in America were openly hoping that the bombers would be an American terrorist, like a Timothy McVeigh, the guy who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma, sort of a home grown right-wing extremist type person. They were hoping the bombers would not be Muslim. Why do you think the political Left want to protect Islam, especially when Islam is so against what the Left holds dear, things like sexual “freedom”, homosexuality, multiculturalism… None of these things are tenets of Islam. They stand against those things, but the political left sides with the Muslims, they go soft on calling this what it is, Islamic terrorist.
MD: It’s true, David, that those on the left wouldn’t last long in an Islamic state, but they support the Islam project. That’s a really fascinating thing and there’s a number of reasons that all come together. One is that the left hasn’t really come to terms with the failure of communism, and they don’t actually have an ideal to hold out as a result, except that they hate capitalism, and thus they hate America as well, and they share that hatred with radical Islam. So on the basis that “Whoever is my enemy’s enemy must be my friend,” there’s a natural partnering there.
Another is the victimhood thing. The left loves a victim, and Islam promotes itself – Muslims promote themselves – as victims, so there’s a partnering there.
And another is that both ideologies are totalitarian, so there’s somehow an affinity where the two work together. But as you say, radical sharia law would just destroy many of the projects that the left holds dear.
DW: I’ve often thought that the Islamic world – those who are intent on world domination – think that the bigger force to deal with first are those who hold the conservative or Christian worldview in the west, and once they are dealt with there’s going to be no problem to take out the political left.
Mark, these young men, the Boston bombers, had been in America – they were actually given politcal asylum here in America, escaping their homeland over in the former Soviet Republic of Chechenya. They had been in America for many years – I think at least one of them had been here for about ten years -– and were supported financially to a large extent by Americans taxpayers. From your understanding, your research, how does one get radicalized to the point that they would actually attack the country that had helped them?
MD: I think there’s two reasons. One was explained by their uncle, Uncle Ruslan, [here] who had absolute contempt for them. He said they did not ‘settle’ – that is, they couldn’t find a meaningful way of making a path for themselves. Tamerlan had wanted to be an engineer, but he did not do well enough; then he wanted to do boxing, but he wasn’t quite good enough at that; he felt superior but he wasn’t getting on.
But the [second] key factor then was that they were exposed to radical teachers who told them about their superiority as conservative Muslims, and offered them this sense of significance, the hope of achieving paradise if they gave their lives in jihad. It’s that radicalisation, the teaching, the doctrine, which was the key issue.
DW: The wife of the older bomber. She was just a regular American girl. I think she was just in college. She met the older bomber and then was married to him, and she actually converted to Islam, which is to me very unusual, to grow up in America, to know the lifestyle here in America of personal freedom versus voluntarily taking on the constrictions of Islam with the headcovering and the different kinds of lifestyle restrictions. What is allure of Islam for a American girl who decides all of a sudden to convert to that religion?
MD: It’s interesting David that quite a lot of women are converting to Islam in the West, more perhaps than men. One woman explained to me that sometimes Muslim men are good looking and attractive, so there’s that factor.
And for some young women, the modern secular west seems rootless, and morally and spiritually lost and Islam seems to offer safe-haven, a place where you know what you are supposed to do, where you’ve got a clear place, and where you don’t have to put yourself on show.
Sometimes women are ignorant and deceived.
There’s also the issue of dominance. It seems that Katharine Russell partnered with a young man who was abusive and dominating and he put a lot of pressure on her. All those factors can come together.
DW: A strain of Islam, both preached by some Imams and practiced by certain followers, actually encourages death – either death by martyrdom for the cause of Islam, as the only sure path to Allah, or also death to non-Muslims, as you have been talking about, and that’s where we see these terrorist attacks as something that pleases Allah. Now it’s just the opposite in the Christian faith. Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus also said in John 8:44 “He, Satan, was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and a father of lies.” I don’t want to be too extreme on this, because Satan is the father of all false religions, because he’s very happy that people are religious but not following the one and only true way through Jesus Christ. How do you categorise Islam compared to other false ways?
MD: I think it’s true that Islam does emphasize death, and the Qur’an criticizes the Jews for loving life [Sura 2:96]. And it’s also true that Islam is in many respects very antagonistic to core values of the gospel. Muhammad, for example, hated crosses and would destroy anything that had a cross on it. Also Islam has been the most devastating ideology in terms of its impact on the Christian world. Most of the ancient Christian world was overwhelmed. His track record is really incredibly devastating. I believe Muhammad was a false prophet. His message was not true. He did not lead people to God but away from God.
Is it the ultimate? Is it the worst expression of the Satanic delusion, that all of us can be affected by? I’m reluctant to say that, but certainly militant Islam has had a hugely devastating effect.
This is one reason why I find it very distressing when people in the West speak of “the prophet Muhammad”. He’s not a prophet. He’s a false prophet. And we need to find ways that really distance ourselves from the claims of Islam, so that we don’t just accept them or speak about it with reverence and respect. Because it is not a true religion.
DW: What would you say to those professing Christians that think that Islam and Christianity can work together because of our shared values of “loving God and loving neighbor”? A lot of Christians think that Allah and God – and Muslims used those words interchangeably — are the same thing. How would you respond to that Mark?
MD: I think it’s tempting to think that people of a different faith just believe more or less the same things that we do. We look at another faith and think “Oh it must be the same.” But that’s just too easy. You need to pay attention to what people actually teach and believe. And even some leading Christian thinkers and writers like Miroslav Volf from Yale University have said “Islam teaches love of the neighbor.” It’s not true. Islam teaches love of the Muslim neighbor, but not of the non-Muslim neighbor.
The Qur’an actually teaches Muslims to show harshness to non-Muslim neighbors and to fight against them [Sura 9:123, Sura 48:29] so you shouldn’t look to religion to be the basis of working together. You should look to common humanity.
I think Christians and Muslims can work together, but not based on a shared religious belief, but rather on their shared humanity, their conscience, their awareness of right and wrong that’s not necessarily based on religion at all, but is just part of the human condition.
DW: What have you found that helps Christians and people in general understand and deal with Islam in the best way?
MD: I think it’s really important to study Islam for yourself. Look at the original sources. There are some very good books that make those sources available. Take the Life of Muhammad: to understand how different it actually is, you really need to be confronted with teachings that say do not love non-Muslims. You need to read those things thoroughly. My book The Third Choice explains Islam clearly, and that’s a resource.
Another thing is you need to set aside the need to be comforted, such as thinking that all religions are the same, or everyone is basically decent: that’s not a good basis for examining these differences. You have to pay attention and look at the issues for what they are.
Another is don’t try to find solutions too quickly. Solutions come later. First you have to understand the problem and live with that and understand that first. The solutions will come as you allow those facts to come to your mind.
DW: Tell us what the situation is like in Australia with regards to Australia? Are you experiencing a lot of the same things, maybe more, because you are closer to the Islamic world? What’s it like down there Mark?
MD: About 2.4% of the Australian population is Muslim. They come from many, many different countries, so their stories are very diverse, because they come from different places. Some Muslims have had difficulties settling here, and we have certainly have the radicals here too – as in the US, where I think there have been hundreds of potential Boston bombings that have been thwarted by the FBI – we’ve had issues here too: people have been arrested and imprisoned for plotting here. In general most Muslims are doing pretty well and adapting well to Australia, but it’s not all roses by any means.
One really good thing that’s happened here is that both sides of politics have repeatedly said very clearly we’re not going to have sharia law here. There’s one law for all. All people are going to be equal before the law. That’s our common law tradition. And if you want to live in Australia that’s what have to put up with, and that’s the way it works. That’s been good: our government has made very clear statements about our values and our legal system to the Muslims that have come into the country. And I wish government leaders around the world would say that very clearly to their Muslim immigrants.
DW: Now Mark one final question. You’ve written three books on Islam. You’re a pastor. You speak very graciously and yet the truth that you speak might be offensive to some Muslims in Australia and Muslims who are listening today. What has been the response to a pastor saying the kinds of things you say? It doesn’t seem to be inflammatory. You point out the differences, which I think is completely fair game. What has been the response that you get from the Muslim world.
MD: I’ve had a range of responses. Sometimes Muslims have been intrigued by what I’ve had to say and I’ve had some very interesting interactions with them. Understanding the religion enables that to happen. Occasionally people have just been offended and they dismiss you, but I find that if you love people and you express your views graciously, and you don’t assume that the person who you’re speaking to has certain beliefs, and you ask them what they believe, and inquire about what they believe, you can have a very good relationship with them. I have friends who debate with Muslims in Hyde Park in London, and often if you can engage in a very frank and open way you can connect very powerfully, much better than if you have a wishy-washy fearful “Oh we’ll all the same” approach. You are much less likely to have a significant engagement with Muslims if you have that view.
Mark Durie is an Anglican vicar in Melbourne, Australia, author ofThe Third Choice, and an Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum.
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment on Reader Supported News.
04 May 13
ob Wile uses a graph to point out the obvious, the dramatic fall in the cost of solar power generation. In many countries– Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal — and in parts of the US such as the Southwest, solar is at grid parity. That means it is as inexpensive to build a solar plant as a gas or coal one. The pace of technological innovation in the solar field has also accelerated, so that costs have started falling precipitously and efficiency is rapidly increasing.
Reneweconomy.com says that the best Chinese solar panels fell in cost by 50% between 2009 and 2012. That incredible achievement is what has driven so many solar companies bankrupt– if you have the older technology, your panels are suddenly expensive and you can’t compete. It is like no one wants a 4 year old computer.
Conservatives shed no tears when better computers drive slower ones out of the market, but point to solar companies’ shake-out as somehow bad or unnatural. No wonder US solar installations jumped 76% in 2012.
The reductions in cost over the next two years are expected to continue, at a slowing but still impressive 30% rate:
Construction has begun on the world’s largest solar plant. MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corp. are building a 579 megawatt installation, the Antelope Valley Solar Project, in Kern and Los Angeles counties in California. That is half a gigawatt, just enormous. It will provide electricity to 400,000 homes in the state (roughly 2 million people?), and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 775,000 tons a year. The US emits 5 billion metric tons a year of C02, second only to China, and forms a big part of the world’s carbon problem all by itself. We just need 645 more of the Antelope Valley projects.
Important new research also shows that hybrid plants that have both solar panels and wind turbines dramatically increase efficiency and help with integration into the electrical grid. Earlier concerns that the turbines would cast shadows and so detract from the efficiency of the solar panels appear to have been overblown. Because in most places in the US there is more sun in the summer and more wind in the winter, a combined plant keeps the electricity feeding into the grid at a more constant rate all year round, which is more desirable than big spikes and fall-offs.
That Germany, then China, then the US are the world’s largest solar markets is no surprise. But that number 17 Japan will increase its solar installations by 120% in 2013 and so may be the second hottest solar market, just after China, this year, would mark a big change. Japan may well have 5 gigawatts of solar installed by the end of this year, even though the relatively new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is no particular friend of the renewables. In my own view, if Japan made the right governmental and private investments, it could overtake China in the solar field and reverse its long post-bubble stagnation.
ABB has been commissioned a large solar electricity generating plant on the edge of the Kalahari Desert near Cape Town, South Africa. It will supply the electricity needs of around 40,000 persons and reduce annual emissions by 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide. South Africa emits 500 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, and is third in the world for per capita emissions. (Still, it only emits a 10th as much over-all as the US). But they just need a thousand more plants like the Kalahari one, and voila! South Africa is also imposing a carbon tax, which will hurry things along. (At the moment, South Africa is far too dependent on dirty coal plants, which not only fuel climate change but also spew deadly toxins such as mercury into the atmosphere, whence it goes into human beings.
Because of South African and Israeli demand in particular, demand for solar panels in the Middle East and Africa has risen over 600% during the past year. Saudi Arabia’s announced plans to save its petroleum for export by going solar at home will add a great deal to regional demand if it sticks to those plans. (In most countries, petroleum isn’t used much for electricity generation as opposed to transportation, but in oil states such as Saudi Arabia it often is used in power plants; but that cuts down on foreign exchange earnings.)
The two Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan are emerging as the solar giants in India, with each having now passed half a gigawatt in solar electricity generation capacity. The two account for some 88% of all of India’s solar power. But Rajasthan may soon outstrip Gujarat, given the state’s solar-friendly commitments, its ample amounts of scorching sunlight, and its vast deserts.